Inside China's surveillance state

Critics warn such tech is fraught with danger but supporters say it can easily weed out criminals

Zhejiang Hangzhou No. 11 High School, on the fringes of downtown Hangzhou in eastern China, is a green, peaceful-seeming place to learn. Gazebo-like structures nestle among lush foliage, Japanese maples gently fan placid lakes.

It is also a digital panopticon. A surveillance system, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence (AI), tracks the state school's 1,010 students, informing teachers which students are late or have missed class, while in the cafe, their menu choices leave a digital dietary footprint that staff can monitor to see who is gorging on too much fatty food.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Inside China's surveillance state'. Print Edition | Subscribe