As Left Idolizes China on COVID, Chinese Families Find Gov't Cameras in Their Homes Monitoring Health


Remember how much we were praising China’s treatment of COVID-19 cases?

So yes, about that.

If you’re an individual returning to China from abroad — or even from another area of China — you can expect a quarantine. OK, fair enough, you might say.

China’s enforcement of that quarantine, however, may be a little more, um, aggressive than you would expect.

“The morning after Ian Lahiffe returned to Beijing, he found a surveillance camera being mounted on the wall outside his apartment door. Its lens was pointing right at him,” CNN reported on Tuesday.

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“After a trip to southern China, the 34-year-old Irish expat and his family were starting their two-week home quarantine, a mandatory measure enforced by the Beijing government to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“He said he opened the door as the camera was being installed, without warning.”

There’s no official edict, mind you, that says cameras need to be affixed outside the homes of individuals returning from different areas of the world — or even different areas of China — after an individual returns from those areas.

However, as Lahiffe learned, no official edict doesn’t necessarily mean no official policy in China.

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“[Having a camera outside your door is] an incredible erosion of privacy,” he said.

“It just seems to be a massive data grab. And I don’t know how much of it is actually legal.”

“Legal.” In China. Isn’t he cute?

As of next year, China is expected to have six times as many surveillance cameras as the United States is going to have, and you can pretty much be assured they’re being used at the behest of the security state.

“China currently has no specific national law to regulate the use of surveillance cameras, but the devices are already a regular part of public life: they’re often there watching when people cross the street, enter a shopping mall, dine in a restaurant, board a bus or even sit in a school classroom,” CNN reported.

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“More than 20 million cameras had been installed across China as of 2017, according to state broadcaster CCTV. But other sources suggest a much higher number. According to a report from IHS Markit Technology, now a part of Informa Tech, China had 349 million surveillance cameras installed as of 2018, nearly five times the number of cameras in the United States.”

And we’re supposed to be shocked by this? That there’s some sort of massive state surveillance apparatus in China and that it’s being used to control the spread of the coronavirus?

In fact, eight of the world’s 10 most surveilled cities are in China (the other two are London and Atlanta).

London has far less than half the cameras per capita that the world’s leader, Chongqing, has. Atlanta has less than a tenth.

In terms of the quarantining, it’s become clear that the cameras are part of the strategy — something many Chinese residents seem to be fine with, although being not-fine might lead the authorities to pay you a visit and convince you that, yes, you were indeed fine with it.

“[I] fully respect and understand the arrangement,” a Beijing resident wrote on Chinese social media site Weibo after a camera and alarm were installed outside her apartment when she returned from Hubei province, the original virus epicenter.

Another Beijing resident said while he found the camera to be unnecessary, “since it is a standard requirement, [I’m] happy to accept it.”

Those are the cameras outside of homes, though. As you may have guessed, they’re not the only variety of technological intrusion in China.

“Some people say cameras have even been placed inside their homes,” CNN reported.

“William Zhou, a public servant, returned to the city of Changzhou, in eastern Jiangsu province, from his native Anhui province in late February. The next day, he said a community worker and a police officer came to his apartment and set up a camera pointing at his front door — from a cabinet wall inside his home.

“Zhou was furious. He asked why the camera couldn’t be placed outside instead, but the police officer told him it might get vandalized. In the end, he said the camera stayed on the cabinet despite his strong protest.

“On that evening, Zhou said he called the mayor’s hotline and the local epidemic control command center to complain. Two days later, two local government officials turned up at his door, asking him to understand and cooperate with the government’s epidemic control efforts. They also told him the camera would only take still images when his door moved and wouldn’t record any video or audio.”

“But Zhou remained unconvinced,” CNN reported, proof that Zhou isn’t an idiot. Also proof he isn’t: “Zhou” a pseudonym.

Remember, though? We’re supposed to praise how China is controlling the coronavirus pandemic.

And this is assuming their numbers are being accurately reported. Or, wait, I’m sorry, let me rephrase that: This is assuming their numbers are now being accurately reported. As you may have remembered, the number of deaths in Hubei province was revised by upward of 50 percent. But don’t worry, they swear they’re not lying this time. And this time they’re super serious.

There’s roughly zero chance that’s actually true. China has been lying about this since day one.

But, hey, it sounds like a pleasant fiction, right? And of course, we can trust them now. Really, they swear to us. And why wouldn’t believe them this time, after all?

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture