In a recent statement, Federal Communication Commission Chairperson, Ajit Pai, accuses the “communist China” of building a massive army to police the internet and to survey their citizens, violating their rights.
Speaking during the U.S. State Department’s Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom on July 17, Pai said that china has an army of “two million-strong” people to police the internet. For context, Ajit Pai said that the United States only has 500,000 on-duty and active personnel to protect the American people.
“China has built an army two million strong to police the Internet,” said Pai. “For context, the actual U.S. army has 500,000 active-duty personnel, and we have about 1.3 million active personnel across our active services.”
“So, China employs a significantly larger group of people to violate the rights of their citizens than the United States employs to defend rights like free expression and freedom of assembly militarily.”
Pai slammed China’s anti-Islam policies
In the same speech, Pai talked about technology being a double-edged sword. In one hand, Pai discussed how technology could be used by the religious community to connect, spread their teachings, learn, and deepen their faith. On the other hand, Pai highlights how technology can be leveraged by governments to control and limit people’s religious freedom, citing what the Communist Chinese government is doing.
Pai has highlighted the continuing attacks against the Muslim community in China. He opens a discussion about the more than two million Uighur Muslims who have been sent to Communist reeducation/concentration camps.
Only recently, investigative reporters said that some Chinese cities are forcing tourists to install malware upon entering the border. The malware has the capability of scanning the phone and reading all the files and archives saved in the device. They are particularly looking for Islamic content and those that indicate support to the Islamic community.
“[This app] provides yet another source of evidence showing how pervasive mass surveillance is being carried out in Xinjiang. We already know that Xinjiang residents—particularly Turkic Muslims—are subjected to round-the-clock and multidimensional surveillance in the region,” Maya Wang, China senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said. “What you’ve found goes beyond that: it suggests that even foreigners are subjected to such mass and unlawful surveillance.”
Other human rights organizations have also slammed the policy, saying that it is “most unlawful.” “This is yet another example of why the surveillance regime in Xinjiang is one of the most unlawful, pervasive, and draconian in the world,” Edin Omanovic, state surveillance program lead at Privacy International said.
“Modern extraction systems take advantage of this to build a detailed but flawed picture into people’s lives. Modern apps, platforms, and devices generate huge amounts of data which people likely aren’t even aware of or believe they’ve deleted, but which can still be found on the device. This is highly alarming in a country where downloading the wrong app or news article could land you in a detention camp,” he added.
On February 1, China has released an updated regulation to define the administrative framework around religious activities in China was imposed. The framework is supposed to “to protect citizens’ freedom of religious belief.’” However, according to Ajit Pai, these regulations are being used with bias against other religious organizations, like Islamic factions.
Pai slammed Xi Jinping rule’s ulterior motive that aims to regain control of the country’s religious infrastructure even though Article 36 of the Chinese Constitution states, “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of religious belief. No State organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion.”
Call to protect freedom of expression and religion
Furthermore, Pai called for reforms in protecting freedom of expression as it is non-separable with freedom of religion. He said: “Our top priority must be to safeguard the freedom of expression. After all, the freedom of speech and free exercise of religion are practically intertwined; one supports the other.”
“When a government has the power to restrict free expression, religious minorities too often pay the price,” he added. “It is vital for countries that believe in religious freedom to join together on the international stage, to fight for an Internet where freedom of conscience is respected. This also means joining together to speak out against those governments.”