China maintains top-secret watch list of U.S. travelers – from celebrities to ordinary people

China maintains top-secret watch list of U.S. travelers - from celebrities to ordinary people


Nearly 700 Americans – including government officials, CEOs and even Ashanti – were secretly placed on a Chinese watch list as they passed through Shanghai’s main airport, The Post has learned.

A database shared with The Post contains a spreadsheet listing the names, dates of birth and passport numbers of 697 US citizens, including some children, who were reported passing through Pudong International Airport in 2018 and 2020.

The list includes executives from fields such as finance, technology, and biomedicine – including some from Apple, Microsoft, GE Healthcare, Pfizer, and Merrill Lynch.

The name and date of birth of Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas, the Grammy-winning R&B singer, was also on the list, which marked her as having passed through the airport in August 2018. A representative for the star did not immediately commented.

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A US State Department employee in the Office of International Organization Affairs appears to be on the list. Another is a documentary filmmaker and mother of two who divides her time between California and South Korea.

Travelers wearing face masks push their luggage through Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 (Photographer: Yan Cong / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Travelers wearing face masks push their luggage through Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China on Wednesday, September 30, 2020 (Photographer: Yan Cong / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Many of the people on the spreadsheet were researchers or professors at US universities – including a senior administrator at NYU Shanghai.

Security experts believe the documents – contained on the servers of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau – provide insight into Beijing’s massive data collection efforts targeting foreigners.

The database was leaked to Internet 2.0, an Australia-based cybersecurity company, which said the records give “an unprecedented view into how China is building its surveillance state with technology and how it is exploiting the technology. data as a means of control “.

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“This system gives us insight into China’s ambitions to collect what it can, impose its will in its jurisdiction and violate standards of confidentiality and accountability,” said co-CEOs Robert Potter and David. Robertson in a statement.

While governments, including the United States, maintain watch lists of suspected terrorists or people accused of serious crimes, these records appear to show how China collects and stores data on daily foreign visitors.

It is not known why Americans on the Chinese list were reported going through an immigration checkpoint at the airport. Experts are also uncertain whether the travelers were specifically screened for inclusion in the database, or simply scanned in a larger surveillance exercise.

Many of these people just appear to be tourists, including students and even children as young as 9 years old.

Americans were not the only ones affected. The identities of 161 Australian citizens, including a former intelligence chief, were also found in the database. Security officials there have obtained the data and are investigating, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported last week.

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More than 100 UK citizens, some of whom were government officials or business leaders, have also been placed on the Chinese watch list – and MI5 has also investigated, according to the UK Telegraph.

In addition to details of international visitors, the database also contains a blacklist of those under surveillance or interrogation in Shanghai, many of whom are considered “terrorists” – including thousands of Uyghur Muslims, a minority group targeted by the Party. Chinese Communist, Internet 2.0 was found.

It shows “how China is blurring the lines between law and order, the fight against terrorism and political crimes,” the company said in a statement.

“In this system, there is limited contention because all are brought together.”

Another component, security experts said, was the flow of dozens of cameras set up around the port of Shanghai, some with facial recognition and license plate readers that tracked cars and people.

Samantha Hoffman, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and an expert on Chinese surveillance, told ABC she encountered similar public safety databases in her research.

“I have seen evidence of the same type of system being developed in other cities and provinces in China in a standardized way,” she told the outlet.

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“While this data shows information for a limited period of time, it does show how foreigners could be caught in China’s surveillance state as they passed through the country, although this system is not yet fully established. “

She added, “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to foreigners visiting China that they can be tracked.”

Neither the Chinese Embassy in Washington nor the US State Department immediately returned The Post’s requests for comment.

This story first appeared in the New York Post.

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