Muslims have continued to be part of the minority in China. In the region of Xinjiang, which is considered to be home to most of China’s Muslim population, the residents were instructed by the Chinese government to install a best SMS tracker in their Android phones. The consequences for refusing such government mandate was detention.
The Chinese government, known for its strict censorship and surveillance of online activity, has informed their Muslim residents through online messaging apps such as WeChat regarding said mandate. It informed the residents that the app, which was named Jingwang, automatically detects videos, e-books, images and electronic documents that have terrorist and illegal religious content. Together with the message is a QR Code which allows the user to download the said tracking tool on their phone. The message ends with a warning that failure to install the said software would entail detention for a total of ten days for the offending individual.
The app allegedly scans digital signatures of files contained in a mobile device and compares them to the Chinese government’s database of illegal material especially those which have terrorist-related content. If a match is found, the user of the said device is prompted by the Jingwang app to delete the said material from their device. Further consequences await those who refuse to delete a detected “illegal material” from their devices.
Aside from detecting illegal downloaded material and media files, the app is specially designed to also block pornographic websites, trojan horses, phising sites and online scamming sites. The app also alerts the user of their total online usage including allowing the Chinese government to remote control the home network of a mobile user. The app also allegedly collects private information such as accounts, Wi-Fi data, passwords and even SIM card data. It can also record data from online messaging apps especially chat conversations. Advocacy groups have found some of the apps functions as questionable especially the fact that the the government, as a third party, to control the home network of a certain user through the Jingwang app. They also find it questionable that messages can be recorded from online chatting apps. A report has stated that several Muslim women were arrested after they installed the app due to messages that they sent through WeChat deemed to be offensive by the Chinese government.
The Chinese authorities have confirmed that random spot checks are being conducted to ensure that the Jingwang app is installed on pertinent devices. According to the authorities, the app was made to help in tracking terrorist-related videos and stopping terrorist mentalities from developing in their citizens. A US-based human rights group called the Freedom House has condemned this act of the Chinese government stating that the mandate to install the said app amid threat of detention violates the right to privacy of such Muslim residents in China. The same also exposes them to punishment without due process for other offenses which may violate their right to free religious and political expression.