Beijing will start issuing residence permits to people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau living on the mainland. Photo: Xinhua
Beijing will start issuing residence permits to people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau living on the mainland. Photo: Xinhua

Taipei has warned its citizens residing in mainland China that they may come under surveillance and be closely monitored by authorities in Beijing.

The Mainland Affairs Council on Thursday issued a reminder to Taiwanese living in mainland China of the heightened risk of government surveillance.

The council alleged that Beijing had been creating a ubiquitous surveillance network called “Skynet” made up of hundreds of millions of CCTV cameras to monitor the flow of people and vehicles, leveraging a database of the facial images and features of more than one billion people.

Whenever a fugitive, suspect or troublemaker was identified by the system, a warning would be triggered and cameras could track the person and update their location and other information real-time, the council warned.

Taiwanese security experts were worried that there were motives other than security behind Beijing’s move to collect information from Taiwanese living on the mainland, who have now been offered residence permits.

Beijing announced a new policy this week to accord full national status to people from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, including a slew of welfare and public services previously available only to mainlanders.

Under Beijing’s new initiative, Taiwanese who have been residing in China for more than six months as students or employees would be allowed to apply for a residence permit that gives them access to the same medical, social welfare and other services as their mainland counterparts.

An 18-digit standardized identification number on the new permits, in the same format as the number on Chinese identity cards issued to mainlanders, would ensure compatibility with all ID readers in public service systems, according to Xinhua.

China’s Taiwan Affairs Office added that Taiwanese did not need to renounce their Taiwan identity cards to apply for the new permit.

“This means Beijing can keep watch on all your activities in China, when you check into a hotel, borrow a book from a library or apply for a new cellphone number, as you need your residence permit to do all of these … And the information you provide when applying for such a permit can be used by the SkyNet to identify and track you,” said one  security analyst in Taiwan.

“We suggest that you weigh all the pros and cons and thinks twice before applying for such a permit, even though the document will make your stay in China more convenient,” he said.

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