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Facial Recognition Introduced in Tibet
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Claude Arpi | Date:12 Jan , 2018 0 Comments
Claude Arpi
Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

What is in store for the Tibetans in 2018?

In his New Year speech, while presenting his vows to the Chinese people, President Xi Jinping admitted that “issues of public concern remained,” adding that this was why “we should strengthen our sense of responsibility and do a good job of ensuring the people’s well-being.”

As we know, ‘people’s well-being’ has been the leitmotiv of the Chinese regime.

Xi affirmed that all rural Chinese living below the poverty line would no more be poor by 2020.

He had probably in mind the ‘minorities’ areas: “It is our solemn promise …Only three years are left to 2020. Every one of us must be called to action, do our best, take targeted measures to secure victories one after another…This is a great cause, important to both the Chinese nation and humanity. Let’s do it together and make it happen.”

In the meantime in Tibet, the authorities have taken so-called ‘welfare’ measures to ‘help’ the common men/women.

Unfortunately these measures are often …with Chinese characteristics.

Welfare in Tibet?

A website reported: “The Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) outlets in Tibet have introduced facial recognition technology at its automatic teller machines (ATM) to provide a new choice for the masses who have the demand for cash.”

The article explained: “Cards are no longer needed to withdraw money. A quick scan of the face will do.” Already 20 ATMs with facial recognition technology have been installed, 14 in Lhasa and the others, elsewhere of Tibet. affirmed: “The ATM is installed with a camera that captures the facial images and compares them with the ID photos of users for verification. Based on big data technology, including the identification of biological characteristics, the machine will be able to identify the cardholders if their facial features have changed, and avoid thieves who attempt to trick the machine.”

Of course, it is entirely for the benefit of the ‘masses’!

The article says: “In order to provide more convenient for the local farmers and herdsmen users, the machine has also specially loaded the Tibetan voice and language.”

Migmar Thondrup, a resident in Lhasa told the reporter: “One of the best things about facial recognition technology is that you don’t have to carry your cards with you for petty deposits and withdrawals. It’s fast and convenient.”

It is certainly convenient for the Public Security Bureau officials to identify those who would be tempted to question the supremacy of the Party.

Already, 100 new ATMs have been tested; they will be put in service in a couple of months.

A Giant database

In the meantime, China is building a giant facial recognition database to identify any citizen within seconds.

It is said that the project can achieve an accuracy rate of 90 per cent …but it faces concerns about security.

The South China Morning Post recently reported that China was building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system “with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds. …The goal is for the system to able to match someone’s face to their ID photo with about 90 per cent accuracy.”

The fact that the project was launched by the Ministry of Public Security shows that it is not just for ATMs and other ‘welfare’ issues.

The Hong Kong newspaper added: “The system can be connected to surveillance camera networks and will use cloud facilities to connect with data storage and processing centres distributed across the country.”

It is also said that the promoters have been encountering difficulties partly due to the technical limits of facial recognition technology.

But there is no doubt that these difficulties will be overcome.

Database entry on the plateau 

The data entry continues in the most remote parts of the Tibetan plateau.

Under the title ‘Ngari pays attention to people’s livelihood’, China Tibet Newsaffirmed that “In recent years, the public security office of Ngari Prefecture has done a good job in improving the masses’ satisfaction and safeguarding the rights and interests of citizens.”

The reporter added that “to solve the document handling problem of children in welfare homes in Ngari Prefecture, green channel is opened by the local police station of Shiquanhe [Ngari] Town with more simplified processing procedure.”

The article is accompanied by a photo. The caption reads: “Workers of the local police station of Shiquanhe Town are conducting portrait and fingerprint information collection work.”

In 2018, the facial data of each and every Tibetan will be stored.

That’s not good news.


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