MAC warns of Chinese 'Skynet' after residence permits for Taiwanese announced

MAC calls China's new residence permits for Taiwanese 'united front' tactics

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Surveillance camera Shanghai.

Surveillance camera Shanghai. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- On the same day that China announced that residence permits would be made available to citizens of Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) on Thursday (Aug. 16) warned would-be applicants of the possible use of the new permits for surveillance and said it was an example of a "united front" propaganda ploy, reported CNA

At a news conference on Thursday, the Chinese State Council Information Office announced that Taiwanese, Hongkongers and Macanese who have lived in China for at least six months and are legally working, residing or studying in the country, will be eligible to apply for residence permits. The documents can then be available within 20 working days after the application, including a valid travel permit, has been submitted. 

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Director Long Mingbiao (龍明彪) said that Taiwanese would not need to have permanent residence status in China and would not need to surrender their Taiwan residence status. Long said that the residence permit is used to "certify identity on the mainland."

Long said that the residence permits would have 18-digit identification numbers and would otherwise match the technical standards of such permits carried by Chinese citizens and be compatible with ID card readers used by China's public service system. 

MAC Deputy Minister and spokesperson Chiu Chui-cheng (邱垂正) said that like the 31 incentives and "equal treatment measures" introduced by some provinces and cities in China to lure away Taiwanese, the proposed "Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan residence permit application and issuance method" is consistent with China's "united front" measures against Taiwan. 

Chiu pointed that that "temporary residence permits" already exist for Taiwanese living in China and says it is currently not clear what the difference would be with such permits and "residence permits." He said the MAC will investigate to see if there really is any substantial difference between the two.

He said that China has been building the "Skynet Project" (天網) in recent years to place surveillance cameras throughout cities to monitor the movements of people and cars. Through its extensive surveillance network, it is now feared that Chinese authorities have already compiled a database of 1 billion facial identification records. 

The moment a "challenger" is discovered by the system, surveillance and tracking devices are activated to record "violations" through automatic facial recognition technology. The facial recognition technology is also being integrated with China's new "social credit system" to comprehensibly monitor the public.

According to a report by technode, China is on a course to have 626 million surveillance cameras in operation by 2020, while the city of Beijing already announced in 2015 that it had 100 percent coverage

Chiu said that because China claims the "residence permits" will be made according to the same technical standards as Chinese residence identity cards, this may pose a risk to Taiwanese people who intend to go to China for employment or study, and they should be very cautious about these new permits. 

Chiu expressed the belief that Taiwanese people studying and working in China will actually cherish their own experience growing up in Taiwan's democratic and free environment. The united front's policy of issuing "residence permits" will not affect the love and recognition the people of Taiwan have for their country, said Chiu. 

Chiu closed by saying that the government will continue to work hard to promote the normal and orderly development of Cross-Strait exchanges and safeguard Taiwan's freedom, democratic system and its people's security and well-being.