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Central government cyberspies step up surveillance of ethnic groups with new language-tracking technology

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Sophisticated new system allows tracking of messages in language of all mainland’s ethnic groups

Mainland authorities have boosted their cyberspying capability by developing technology that can track communications in the languages of ethnic groups.

The sophisticated new system will allow the monitoring of voice calls, text sent via the internet and even communications embedded in images or graphics to alert them to possible social unrest.

The system is aimed at local authorities in areas such as Xinjiang  and Tibet , where security officials do not know the local language. But rights groups warn that the technology could lead to the further suppression of minorities.

Ding Xiaoqing , a professor at Tsinghua University’s Centre for Intelligent Image and Document Information Processing, and the leader of the team behind the new application, said most government officials in ethnic regions are Han Chinese who cannot read or speak the local language.


“With the help of our technology, they can have first-hand, real time access to intelligence information. They can also deal with multiple languages with one system,” she said. The technology can translate every major ethnic minority language in China, Ding explained.

To broaden its use, the team had included overseas languages such as Arabic and Japanese.

Ding said a more comprehensive surveillance approach could detect valuable information currently going unnoticed.


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