Reverse Engineering a Chinese Surveillance App

Human Rights Watch has reverse engineered an app used by the Chinese police to conduct mass surveillance on Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang. The details are fascinating, and chilling.

Boing Boing post.

Posted on May 13, 2019 at 6:37 AM • 40 Comments

Comments

metaschimaMay 13, 2019 7:35 AM

It's basically a modern version of 1984. I wonder how long it will take the USA to catch up. Or maybe they're already there but they're better at covering it up.

BobMay 13, 2019 8:59 AM

@metaschima

It's a safe bet the US .gov has all this information and more. Fortunately, we're not quite as authoritarian or single-party as China right now, so they don't appear to be acting on it. At least not at anywhere approaching the same level. Probably just using similar data analysis to figure out who to target for more invasive, thorough surveillance rather than black-bagging them to Guantanamo.

parabarbarianMay 13, 2019 9:16 AM

This is hardly surprising. They are Communists and Communists watch everybody in their country.

Ed BearMay 13, 2019 9:52 AM

It has been pointed out that 1984 was intended as a cautionary tale, not an operations manual.

RealFakeNewsMay 13, 2019 10:33 AM

I do not support or condone or like (or whatever adjective you choose to use) what they're doing, but the West has a problem admitting that a larger-than-we-want-to-think group of Muslim Extremists are a major threat to security, and China are clamping down.

You never hear of Muslim terrorist attacks in China despite being home to 1/5th of the world's population.

Yes, China are being draconian, but they have a point.

TimHMay 13, 2019 10:39 AM

I suspect that the UK will try it first, initially under the guise of monitoring welfare recipients, parolees, released kiddie fiddlers etc. UK already has high physical surveillance, no constitution with rights, laws forcing encryption unlocking, and a willingness to leave the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr. VerhartMay 13, 2019 10:51 AM

> It's basically a modern version of 1984. I wonder how long it will take the USA to catch up.
> Or maybe they're already there but they're better at covering it up.

What Orwell failed to predict is that we'd buy the cameras ourselves, and that our biggest fear would be that nobody was watching.

-- Keith Lowell Jensen, @keithlowell

Petre Peter May 13, 2019 10:54 AM

During communist rule, Romanian Securitatea, installed recording devices in all tvs. This was before 1989 when their modus operandi was search [for dissidents] and destroy them. Seems to be the same case here.

AlejandroMay 13, 2019 11:22 AM

Isn't the technology described here rather ordinary?

1. A data base program on a server with many fields.
2. State agents convey data via an app on their personal device.

The tricky part seems to be getting the actual data, like "Suddenly returned home after absence", or "Does not socialize with neighbors".

That seems to be old fashioned leg work, including personal interrogations.

Last, the truly dastardly part is that the government has the right and authority to maintain such a data base for political reasons.

This article reminds me how important it is to lie, lie, lie like hell to the electronic corporate and government beast(s). Even for the most innocuous inquiries. Feed the beast garbage.

I suspect NSA/Five Eyes has a more intricate system. But, with fewer active targets.

AlejandroMay 13, 2019 11:27 AM

@TimH

Re: "I suspect that the UK will try it first,..."

The British people seem to have lost all interest in basic human rights and in particular anything related to electronic data. They simply don't care and their government is running with that lack of interest.

AlejMay 13, 2019 11:35 AM

And the best part is that Muslims who demonstrate for Israel-Palestine fights, DO NOT demonstrate at all for Chinese-Muslims because they afraid of China government.

Denton ScratchMay 13, 2019 11:45 AM

The second HRW report (i.e. the second link) states baldly that this surveillance is illegal, without saying which law it violates. Do they mean international law? That is worthless, unless you have an army on your side, as well as a lawyer.

The first report states that the surveillance techniques "appear to be contrary to Chinese law", again without mentioning any particular law.

I mean, I believe the use of techniques such as adding people who had stopped using their smartphone to a checklist would probably be legal here, wouldn't it? Most of what they describe is nasty, but I suspect that Western TLAs and police forces do a lot of the same stuff.

If HRW are directly criticizing Chinese law, they should come out and say so, and name the law.

It's quite difficult to evaluate these reports, if they don't include critical information that they are relying on, such as why they claim this surveillance is illegal. I mean, the PRC is not really famous for the robustness of its legal system; lots of lawyers get sent to jail for just doing their jobs. Mao didn't like laws - he said they got in the way of government. It is famous, however, for having super-vague laws that enable them to arrest and lock-up more-or-less anyone they want.

I used to have more confidence in the work of HRW (say, ten years ago) than I do nowadays. Apparently it's founder and former CEO, Robert Bernstein, shares my doubts.

To be clear, I believe the reports about Chinese repression in Xinjiang province, on the whole. There were similar reports 20 and 30 years ago about repression in Tibet, which I also believed. My views about what happened in Tibet have become more nuanced, now that it's easier for reporters to visit and travel in Tibet. Xinjiang is still pretty-much in lockdown, so I accept these reports only provisionally.

Clive RovinsoonMay 13, 2019 12:12 PM

@ parabarbarian,

They are Communists and Communists watch everybody in their country.

When it comes to "watch everybody" history shows that any authoritarian Government no matter what it's "ism" does it. Look at Europe from the 1930's onwards every improvement in technology, such as Hollarith tabulating machines from IBM got sold to all the authoritarian regimes for "Census data processing" or what ever other title you might wish to call it.

The modern era has since the 1990's had not just authoritarian Governments that "watch everybody" there has been a rapid rise in corporates that "watch everybody" so even "Capitalism" is now intruding as forcefully as it can into peoples lives. What the US Gov has done however is enact laws that get them that corporate collected "watch everybody" data for free.

The important thing is not what "ism" it is doing the "watch everybody", it's the lies about who is doing it to the most extream. Oddly you might think is that China and Russia do not spy on their citizens as much as Western nations. This is not due to a lack of trying but a lack of resources, something the west has less problems with.

So we in the West especially the UK get the "watch everybody" policy way worse than China...

vas pupMay 13, 2019 1:00 PM

@RealFakeNews
Looks like China chose less evil, and they don't give a piece of sh... at all criticism. They do put security first. They put prevention at the focus. It often less expensive than handle consequences.
Unfortunately, authoritarian government is more effective to provide tranquility for major part of population when real danger exists. I am not afraid of iron laws. I am afraid of capricious laws- they are real draconian laws. Just opinion.

AndersMay 13, 2019 1:55 PM

@metaschima

"I wonder how long it will take the USA to catch up. Or maybe they're already there but they're better at covering it up."

They sugarcoated it in the form of Facebook and Google.

JeffMay 13, 2019 1:56 PM

With so much data to collect on so many people, how does an individual policeman find the time to enter the data? I'd think the coverage would be very spotty (sparse). Is this similar to the "social score" Chinese citizens receive?

SteveMay 13, 2019 2:19 PM

@Denton Scratch:
If HRW are directly criticizing Chinese law, they should come out and say so, and name the law.

The second link does say:
"Article 40 of the Chinese Constitution guarantees people’s “privacy of correspondence,”", but that's essentially it. And then in the following paragraphs they name the "State Security Law" and the "regional Implementation Methods of the Counter-Terrorism Law".

So they claim a violation of the Chinese constitution itself, do indeed name specific laws, and then go on to claim that these practices go even further than what is permitted by those laws.

James May 13, 2019 2:30 PM

Don't kid Yourself, were do you think the Chinese got this program? Piss off the Government at all and You too could have this hidden is Your Computer! The thought of, " Innocence until proven Guilty " only applies when you go to Jail. Then it's still BS!
Let Your Computer act a little funny, and go into the wrong areas looking for bad Code. Better yet delete old Certificates that expired YEARS AGO!!
I only ever tried to protect my Family from some slimly greaseball peaking at them. Now I'm on a leash so short I doubt this will even post. All this because I Unplugged my Computer from the Internet and tried to figure out what was going on. The Computer I paid my hard earned money for. So do you know what to believe on your Computer screen, NOTHING! If people really knew what was going on, I promise all hell would break loose! The Government set people like me up for security failure from the start. No more DVds for programs. Everything is online now and if your network is compromised the own you and everything you see.Security is hard enough for us laypeople as it is and getting harder everyday. So don't think the US Government has a Halo, I can promise you from experience, THEY DO NOT!

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsMay 13, 2019 2:31 PM

@metaschima @Anders

From several stories reported from China, one from Bloomberg and another from Wired, was quite informative. Several processes such as purchasing travel tickets and hotel bookings was instructive, the screens in which the social score is displayed along with status data looks very similar to those from Experian or TransUnion. The scores seemed to be scaled identically, an ideal score is 800. So next time you're looking at your personal dossier on one of these "credit" reporting agencies, understand that you do share something with the Chinese.

Welcome to the matrix, fools.

AndersMay 13, 2019 3:19 PM

@name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons

Actually all this reminds me Minority Report

HJohnMay 13, 2019 4:21 PM

I've noticed that people on the left only worry about capitalistic dangers (the ones they perceive as coming from the right), and people on the right only worry about governmental dangers (the ones they perceive as coming from the left).

The fact of the matter is, capitalism and socialism are not on opposite sides of the spectrum. They can and will and do intersect, and that is where big brother will emerge.


Alyer Babtu May 13, 2019 4:24 PM

There seems to be in places here confusion between authoritarian and totalitarian. Authoriatarian regimes merely prescribe what is allowed in terms of overt political acts. They are a kind of politics as usual and are survivable. Totalitarian regimes prescribe what is allowed in the mind. They are not politics at all and are not survivable. The authoritarian regime merely cautioned Socrates; the totalitarian one executed him.

AlejandroMay 13, 2019 5:50 PM

@Jeff

Re: "how does an individual policeman find the time to enter the data?"

Right. There must be an mandatory effective ratio of watchers to the watched to keep the data up to date or else the bank would quickly decompose.

Also, there must be another large cohort analyzing data, then acting on it. Mass surveillance must be very big operation in China.

It's been said NSA collects so much information on everything there is no one person or small body of persons that can possibly understand or rationally act on it. Meanwhile, secrets being secrets, only a select few of millions even have access to the data.

In short, a lot (maybe most) of their is useless for any practical purpose, even tyrannical.

(Point of order: I am NOT "Alej". Don't know why someone chose that handle to post just below my previous post, but it's not me.)

John SmithMay 13, 2019 8:51 PM

from Alejandro:

"...Right. There must be an mandatory effective ratio of watchers to the watched to keep the data up to date or else the bank would quickly decompose..."

Hence the push for AI, to automate the surveillance, reporting, judging, and scoring.

Individual police will get alerts about any nearby undesirables, thanks to omnipresent cameras (fixed location or on drones), and facial+gait recognition software.

I can see this system of control becoming very efficient, with few people needed to maintain it.

In countries like the UK, the system will be privatized, so that profit motives align with State ideology. To drive improvements, the State will offer Universities almost unlimited funding for research aimed at improving the system. Our "best and brightest" will be rewarded for enslaving the rest of us.

The next frontier will then be automated torture, with robotic assistants helping to make human "interrogators" much more productive.

I predict we'll see this in China first, followed by fascist-leaning countries like the UK and Spain.

Nope.May 13, 2019 8:52 PM

"So we in the West especially the UK get the "watch everybody" policy way worse than China..."

Is bullshit. Clive is a crackhead sometimes.

The PullMay 13, 2019 11:41 PM

I can't help but notice how no one pointed out how the re-education camps are, and probably did not read the linked page to it.

I have had no problem pointing out Muslim excesses, wrote about it in "confessions of a hacktivist" twenty years ago. Nothing compared to Cambodia, or Mao's Cultural Revolution. That is systematic spiritual slaughter on a mass scale, and unbelievable levels of dehumanization.

China has similar morbid dealings with Tibet.

That is not a level of corruption Western nations know. It is something which can influence Western nations, especially when they are profiting from it, gaining ideas in the meantime.

If there is any real comparison made to this story and Western nations, it might be with USA's extremely high rate of incarceration. ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarceration_rate )

Otherwise, China is a major global player, and the further corrupted they get, the more of a negative influence they will be on the rest of the world.

Only takes a strong global economic downturn to make the world a very dark place again. That can happen, fast.


Clive RobinsonMay 13, 2019 11:48 PM

@ Nope,

Is bullshit. Clive is a crackhead sometimes.

The usual excesively rude and ill informed comment yet again from you. I would have thought you would have learnt by now, but obviously not. You apparently have some desire to parade your numerous failings in public. So maybe you should change your handle from "Nope" to "No hope"?

So for your education,

Firstly you "quoted out of context" ommiting the important point I made, which explains why it is the way it is, and why it happened first in what some call the "Capitalist West",

Oddly you might think is that China and Russia do not spy on their citizens as much as Western nations. This is not due to a lack of trying but a lack of resources, something the west has less problems with.

Thus the West especially the UK has had both the "resources" and political "will" to be the "bleeding edge" not just of research on surveillance technology via AI etc but it's actual deployment since UK PM John Major thought it would be a good idea shortly after replacing "Mad Maggie" Thatcher a third of a century ago...

It's also "resources and will" for the past century or so that has made the UK a major world hub for communications, especially for those that have issues with the round trip time through geo-stationary satellites. Back four decades ago the UK SigInt agencies had one of the most sophisticated and deniable intercept operations that was right on "the bleeding edge" of technology. They sniffed the telecommunications backbone known as the "trunk" that at that time was essentially microwave point to point links.

And it's not just CCTV and SigInt where there has been the "will and resources" and leading edge research, it's also DNA and Medical Records, and Childrens education "from cradle to grave and beyond".

Yes other obvioulsly envious nations are now quickly catching up as they gain the resources, and will I suspect take over some of the number one spots in time depending more on how you measure them than anything else.

But look at it in terms of "per head of national population" China has a population that is now a little under one and a half billion people and has started to grow more significantly recently (One Child policy is now Two Child). The UK has a little under sixty seven million or less than 4.5% of China's population. Thus china would have to spend over twenty two and a half times what the UK does just to stay where it is in comparison and considerably more to catch up.

When you consider that the number of people born in China last year was about the equivalent of one third of the UK population, you can see that they are going to have an increasing resources gap. Especially when you consider other factors like GDP against population and what percentage of that can be considered sufficiently "excess" to be spent on surveillance. Because it did, at one point the UK had twenty percent of the world's CCTV cameras and back end systems with less than one percent of the worlds population...

As I said it is a question of "resources" and "will" at a given point in time. But no matter what the will is, if you don't have the resources at that point in time you can not make it happen except by running into major debt issues, something some Western Nations apparently are currently doing...

So perhaps you need to start looking at the information available... so have a read of what various articles have said. Starting with,

    The UK not only has more CCTV cameras than the world’s biggest dictatorship, China, we also have more cameras per person than anywhere else on the planet.

https://www.express.co.uk/expressyourself/215388/CCTV-Britain-Why-are-we-the-most-spied-on-country-in-the-world

    At the same time, Prof Alec Jeffreys, a pioneer of DNA profiling, said the criminal database was never intended to hold the samples of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Britain now has the largest DNA database in the world, with 3.6 million samples.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1533054/Britain-the-most-spied-on-nation-in-the-world.html

    Britain relies on the cameras far more than other countries, accounting for 20 per cent of all such technology used across the world, despite having just one per cent of the globe's population.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-444819/UK-1-worlds-population-20-CCTV-cameras.htmlq

    London is the most spied-on city in the world. Numerous CCTV cameras have been placed across the city to help reduce the crime rates in the city. Cameras are placed on lampposts, buildings, train stations, and on main roads. According to the estimation by the Big Brother Watch (BBW), there are approximately 51,000 cameras that are run by the police to help watch citizens in the capital. According to a civil rights group called Liberty, on average a Londoner is captured on camera about 300 times daily. According to BBW, 20% of the world’s CCTV cameras are found in Britain.

https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-spied-on-cities-in-the-world.html

TIARA GNOMEMay 14, 2019 1:55 AM

Please be patient with me while I explain why the Chinese are absolutely right to conduct heavy surveillence of whatever sort they deem fit in Xinjiang.

1. It is their country, and police surveillence is certainly rule-based and orderly.

2. They rightly have a policy of zero tolerance towards Islamic terror.

3. I know several Muslims who live in China, who do business there, and they all go to their local mosque, they all work hard, and they are all carefree and supportive of the authorities. They are all devout. I just spoke with one of them, and he is celebrating Ramadan right now. China is not North Korea, not at all. It is a center of business and development. The scale of growth and the increasing wealth are absolutely stunning. By far, it is open, and overall they are very optimistic indeed, especially the young, who work hard. The effort to stamp out Islamic fundamentalism goes hand-in-hand with bettering the lives of the people there in Xinjiang.

What the Western press is not going to talk about is the billions of extra Yuan that China pours into Xinjiang to build hospitals, schools, etc., for modernization and the eradication of poverty.

We all know what the West has done in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. We are talking here about unspeakable suffering and a shocking number of deaths. We are talking about a multi-billion dollar electronic collection effort that continues. Those awful Chinese and their evil app! How shocking!

I am not saying this because I support China; I am saying this because I support objective, informed judgment.

If you live in Great Britain, for example, a nation which is clearly failing and cannot even protect its borders, you are one of the most spied upon human beings in the history of civilization on earth. That, ladies and gentleman, is a fact, and uncontrolled immigration is part of the problem. China has its act together and they are not putting up with any terror or Islamic fundamentalism. Good for them!

WeatherMay 14, 2019 2:57 AM

@Bruce
Why link to a news site, I agree with the person above that say not enough data.
I give you aes C code, and you post that, of course we will get the usual political crap.

:(

jbmartin6May 14, 2019 8:44 AM

A quibble, this is not a surveillance app, this is an app for the police to input and manage follow up interviews with people marked as suspicious by the actual surveillance. The source(s) of the initial surveillance data are not discussed, but seems like exactly what readers of this blog would expect.

The PullMay 14, 2019 11:50 AM

@TIARA GNOME

Thank you for your polite response, and providing the other side of the picture.

I disagree HRW's response is from "Western Press". Western press reported on the issue, but HRW is a human rights organization.

At true question here, is the system of repression being put on the indigenous Turkish Muslims. This includes not only the described system of analysis of the population, but above all, the fact that an estimated one million have been taken to re-education camps. The description of which fits well with 1970s Pol Pot's Cambodia, or Mao's cultural revolution.

Or, modern North Korea.

This sort of behavior by state's is absolutely unacceptable and should be condemned by the world, and every respective nation just as today we condemn the excesses of Japan's Imperial Army.

This has nothing to do with Great Britain.

If anyone wants to imagine Great Britain like this, they can do so: by Great Britain's great writer behind V for Vendetta. (Or, 1984.) If anything the citizens there are remaining proactive and vigilant. And nobody is going to complain about that.

But, these are realities in China, and they should be condemned. Likewise, is China treating the Tibetans, and there are even crackdowns on Christians who refuse to go to the state authorized churches.

As a governmental system, the current regime still does not allow for the basic freedoms afforded in what we call "first world countries", which certainly include Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

As a culture, overall, and as a nation, there are many fine things which can be said for China. I have been there and known many Chinese.

But, you will not find Chinese able to write works of speculative, vigilant fiction such as 1984 or V for Vendetta. You will not find them able to well document the excesses of Cambodia, North Korea, or Mao's Cultural Revolution -- unless they come abroad and decide to be open about these matters.

There is a clear direction for China to go, and I see no reason for that direction to be scoffed at, even if it is out of fear or misplaced patriotism.

What we have, with our freedoms, in 'first world countries', is undeniable good, and right.

Re-education camps should be condemned. They are abhorrent, by every measure.

Finally, as for "billions" being poured in, perhaps. But, that is for China's best interests, and certainly the citizens there contribute to the economy.

FaustusMay 14, 2019 12:22 PM

@ Tiara, Pull

My first reaction to this article was "How does this differ from US surveillance of dissidents?"

@Pull brings in the reeducation camps, which certainly sound horrible. But are they as horrible as the U.S. penal system? Or the way we stole indigenous children for reeducation? Or how we treat American Indians who strive for autonomy like the Chinese Muslims?

The US prison system seems mostly designed to justify the massive prison/law enforcement industrial complex by ensuring there is a constant stream of alienated and disempowered "outsiders" to police. Rehabilitation seems to be purposefully avoided.

The Chinese reeducation system seems to actually want to reduce the need for itself while our system is self perpetuating.

Neither is anything I wish on people. But the differences between the systems seem mostly cosmetic. Is it really that satisfying to point the finger at China? It is simply our shadow self: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_(psychology)

TIARA GNOMEMay 14, 2019 12:55 PM

@ The Pull

I agree with you entirely that there are many commendable things about modern China.

And you are right about how China is not turning out great writers--a shortcoming that a certain Chinese technologist I know recently lamented to me. He agrees with you and says that China's rapid development has been much too one-sided.

If you are interested in getting the contemporary Chinese view of domestic issues, to include topics such as cyber-security, get your hands on their excellent journal "Qiushi", which is the CPC Central Committee Quarterly.

In talking privately with Chinese people, many of whom are Muslim, I have noticed something telling: they really believe the government protects them. It is not an act. They trust the people over them. And why not? Everyone is getting rich!

Isn't it strange then that so many Americans think of the NSA as inept and dishonest, a threat. I don't have an answer. I just think it's an interesting contrast. In China, people feel protected and are free to go about their work, but in America their is a cloud over people about surveillance and the government is widely viewed as a real threat.

Sometimes I actually wonder who is free and who isn't. Moreover, if you are swimming in money and your kid is going to Yale from Nanjing, how oppressed can you actually be?

Clive RobinsonMay 14, 2019 1:14 PM

@ All,

Surveillance is part of a "security chain".

Just as the reason for massive surveillance is different from place to place and Government to Government, so is what follows the surveillance.

Whilst the UK might be the most heavily surveilled nation in the world, that does not mean the outcome of such surveillance may be the worst possible.

That said, no government would devote the resources to surveillance unless they had a reason to.

Some Governments most notably the US and UK have found ways to significantly reduce the "front-end cost" by co-opting corporates and others that collect data for commercial reasons.

For instance when Tony Blair was PM of the UK a "think-tank report" got leaked. Amongst it's proposals using "store-card data" to assess wealth in small clusters of maybe fifty or so homes and charge land taxes (community charge / rates) based on this information. It also suggested that homes with double glazing, central heating, loft etc insulation should likewise pay more. Perhaps the most barmy was to add very large amounts for "the view", that is if your property faced a playing field or alotments in Urban areas you would pay considerably more. All the data for this would be compulsorily taken for free from those who collected it.

When the Regulation of Investigatory Powets Act (RIPA) was set up in the UK immense rights of surveillance were invested in many many agences by David Blunket MP. Prior to which few if any of the agencies would ever have dreamed of surveilling ordinary people. However after RIPA came into effect it was not long before many of these agencies turned surveillance into "profit-centers" designed specifically to raise revenue via petty fines, rather than raise revenues the way they were supposed to, which would have been politically unpopular.

Sometimes the reason for surveillance is just plain naked greed expressed as either theft by a government or as they prefere "eminent domain"...

What ever the end reason be it greed to genocide, it does not effect what the available of "resources" and "will" by a national or local government and their agencies to spy on the population at large, just the subsequent processes.

DennisMay 14, 2019 10:19 PM

@Clive Robinson wrote, "Some Governments most notably the US and UK have found ways to significantly reduce the "front-end cost" by co-opting corporates and others that collect data for commercial reasons."

This is likely the case, however in reality the gubermints are acting on behalf of the people thereby passing the cost to the public taxpayers. In some areas, these "public projects" work to benefit those with operating power in the private sector thereby giving a competitive advantage to the select few.

All the above reasons give more propensity to hijacking a democracy in a democratically elected society. Thus, the only true democracy is one in which a mob rules or by way or oligrachs of various prominent conglomerates.

DennisMay 14, 2019 10:29 PM

@Clive Robinson wrote, "And it's not just CCTV and SigInt where there has been the "will and resources" and leading edge research, it's also DNA and Medical Records, and Childrens education "from cradle to grave and beyond"."

The biggest "surveillance" apparatus system remains in the financial data/system of various nations. All your purchasing history, transactions, debt, credits, are conveniently accessed, aggregated and analyzed long before we awoke to such things as big brothering. This is otherwise known as your "credit score" among very private circles (not gubermint). On top of surveillance, this score is used to determine how much you can purchase in reality thru borrowing from various institutions. Peripherally, this score also determines your standing among peers in various forms of verification process.

The PullMay 15, 2019 1:59 PM

@TIARA GNOME

I do not consider myself "American", but a 'person of the world'. I wish more would take this attitude. We would have less "Us Vs Them" mentality.

Soft boundaries that respect divergent cultures are good. Hard boundaries that people take to isolate themselves, are bad.

Globalism > Isolationism & Nationalism. We are all in this together, whether anyone likes this or not.

@faustus

Yes, the US criminal "justice" system is absolutely noxious, highest incarceration per population. I linked to this on my first post. It is worth mentioning, in this context. I do tout the ideals of the founders of the US, the rights of humans and all, but the failing, especially on this, is absolutely terrible.

Further, these people can not even vote, which helps stall any sort of meaningful change.

It is hypocrisy of the highest grade and corrodes any moral authority the founders had. I do credit them as having performed some remarkable work.

Together, there is a very malicious yin and yang of sorts, at work. The Dragon & the Beast.


But, there is good in both, as well. Of course. American movies are fantastic, and help spread dreams & vision across the world. Hope to the impoverished. Whereas Chinese culture is extraordinary in many ways. Nevermind the fascinating history, and unique accomplishments.


vas pupMay 16, 2019 2:40 PM

@Faustus • May 14, 2019 12:22 PM
As I recall imprisonment has four goals:
1 - retribution towards criminal("Should we return good for evil? We should return good for good. For evil we should return justice"(Confucius).
It should be balanced system where retribution corresponds to the level of evil.
It its just counterproductive when murderer get less time in prison than non-violent criminal. So, sentencing guidelines should be dramatically changed as the first step. We should not kill a bird with cannon when same effect could be achieved with gun.
2 - safety for the society. When somebody commits so terrible crime (serial killer, serial rapist - of minors in particular, mass terrorist attacks), the best for society is either life sentence without parole or death penalty. The latter should be restricted by doubts/lack of evidence. Those folks pass the point of no return for possible rehabilitation.
3- deterrence for those who are close to the threshold of committing the crime. First, those who follow the law should be as a rule statistically in a better position than those who brake the law regardless of any demographical, wealth/status related excuses, in particular access to better legal help. Second, cost- benefit analysis should be always in favor of law-abiding behavior. Breaking law should never ever be rewarded regardless of the type of law (tax, immigration, etc.). That erode the whole system and psychologically propagate to other branches of law including criminal law, penitentiary law, you name it.
4- rehabilitation. That is the most important, and I agree with @Faustus.
That includes humane treatment during incarceration absolutely excluding violence (sexual in particular)from other inmates and
guards, preparation for life out of prison: skills/job training, supportive employment, housing. Otherwise, prison creates monsters(e.g. male prisoners being raped in prison have substantially higher rate of becoming rapist thereafter to prove themselves their masculinity), obtaining connections with gangs, path through so called prison universities (get new skills for escalating criminal activity).
That all creates revolving prison doors aka high level of recidivism.
In Netherlands and Norway, # 4 is key, that is why recidivism is substantially less.
Last but not least, rehabilitation includes addressing curable mental health problem which are contributing factor for recidivism.
For incurable mental health cases - #2 is the only option.

DanielMay 17, 2019 6:04 PM

Just a small comment about the report. In the subtitle, as well as throughout the article, they mention "use illegal surveillance."
Now, we read through the article and dont think twice about it, however keep in mind the assumption by us, as well as HRW, that this is illegal -- is most probably wrong. You may not like it, may think it's 1984ish, and so on; I may even agree with you. However, it is perfectly legal in that area, and unless some international tribunal decides this is a crime against humanity, which overrides any local laws, this is perfectly legal, even if it goes against our values.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.