As if persecuting Christians inside the country is not enough, China is now using surveillance technology to keep track of people even to other countries - and is letting other nations use this technology as well.
Persecuted believers inside and outside China are now bracing for terror with the Chinese Communist Party's new AI surveillance technology, Open Doors reported.
Using artificial intelligence or AI, Chinese authorities can now keep track of believers they are persecuting even if they fled to other countries with the help of a "faceprint" - when a surveillance camera hones in to map a person's face, instant data can be gathered and entered into a database, and in seconds or less, a person's identity and current location can be confirmed.
While it all looks like something that came out of a Sci-Fi movie, it's now happening in real life.
Unknowingly, millions of people willingly submit data on their smartphones that allow system algorithms to recognize and identify a face. China's new AI technology is so powerful that the communist government has turned it into a persecution tactic, installing cameras everywhere including churches.
Now, state-approved churches in China, such as those in Jiangxi and Henan provinces, have cameras enabled with face recognition. Even with 97 million Christians in the country, tracking someone would not be too hard for the Chinese Communist Party once they get into their database.
Unfortunately, churches who refused the installation of such cameras for "security reasons" were either fined or raided. Worse, churches were banned to operate like the Zion Church in Northern Beijing. The church's 1,500 members were also harassed by police and state security officials at their homes and even their workplace.
To date, China has installed 415 million surveillance cameras and still counting. Each camera is connected to the Public Security Bureau to instantly connect to other databases in the government and is eventually linked to the "Social Credit System" that monitors citizens' loyalty to communism and its tenets.
This framework has now put a lot of pressure to religious minorities like never before.
Beyond mainland China
Christians who experience persecution in China are not the only ones worried about the rise of the AI technology.
China has been working to expand its influence globally, and as it does, it is also exporting what Open Doors calls its "all-pervasive systems for 'protection' and 'security'" inside countries it influences.
In July last year, Democrats included in a U.S. Senate committee expressed their worry over China's "digital authoritarianism," providing details in the form of a report.
In this report, the committee noted how Uzbekistan, which is currently ranked as the 21st country most hostile to Christians as per Open Doors' World Watch List, has exerted efforts to "digitally manage political affairs" using China's surveillance technology.
Another report from the Brookings Institution also described China's efforts to spread its highly intrusive surveillance technology to Saudi Arabia, Laos, Pakistan, and other places in the World Watch List.
Not only will a powerful surveillance technology allow governments to digitally manage political affairs, like what Uzbekistan did. It will also place religious freedoms at risk by targeting churches and other religious minorities who do not practice loyalty to communism.
According to Open Doors, China's surveillance technology will be used to target minorities they consider threats by tracking their movements and taking "preemptive action." The CCP has used such a technology to track the Uighur minority residing in Xinjiang.
Increasing control "concerning"
For years China's effort to restrict believers and control minorities has been concerning - even more so now.
David Curry, Open Doors CEO shared how "technology, in the hands of evil actors, has massive human rights implications for everybody with a smartphone."
"What's never been possible before, really, is a surveillance technology that enables the regime to ban private forms of religion," Curry explained further saying that nothing will can hidden - messages, conversations, even private meetings are no longer private.
"On top of that, they've also got this incredible array of geolocation data so that if you are trying to meet with certain folks in private, they can actually figure that out and begin to unwind some of those private religious communities, too. When that's paired with existing tracking systems, the government can build a frightening level of detail about where people have been and what they've been doing."
Despite the fear and the threat it poses to Christians, Open Doors encourages believers to use this time to prepare and be strong in faith.
One of the organization's workers in China shared, "We want to see Christians in China stand firm and strong under persecution through God's grace and power. We want to see a vibrant, persevering church that will not bow to the enemy's schemes. This is our dream."
Believers in China and other countries are urged to prepare for the upcoming persecution led by those who hate the Lord Jesus Christ.