Adventures of Life in Beijing

Up. Down. All around. I counted 96 security cameras on my morning walk to the park which is just over a mile away. That was on my side of the street. It could have been 95 or 97. I started to lose count after awhile.

Cameras line the streets to monitor traffic.

Cameras record license plates as only certain vehicles are allowed into the city on given days to reduce traffic.

 

Crosswalks are monitored to discourage jaywalking. Sometimes names and ID numbers pop up next photos of the offending pedestrians.

 

Smile, you’re on candid camera.

 

Cameras in restaurant kitchens send a live feed to the dining area. Find a stray hair in your food? Now you’ll know whose it is.

 

I’m not sure I want to know what goes on back there.

 

Cameras are in every school classroom (keep those masks on!), and adorn entrances to hotels, apartment compounds and shops.

 

Entrance to a local store.

 

Mini-cameras hang from rearview mirrors or sit on the dash in taxis and ride share vehicles.

If there’s a place to gather, chances are there’s a camera nearby.

 

A peaceful spot at the park under watchful eye.

 

Since Beijing is the capital, it’s surveillance heavy, with around 1 million cameras watching 20 million people. The city boasts 100 % coverage. Combined with the ever-increasing technology of facial recognition, the use of cameras is a way to keep people in line.

In China, whether you sip, stroll, work or play, someone is always watching.

 

Stone sculptures stand watch

 

Thankfully, I haven’t seen any cameras patrolling the public restrooms yet. Using a sometimes less-than-clean squat toilet is stressful enough. I don’t need an audience.

 

Can I have some privacy please?

 

I’m so used to it I don’t even notice them much anymore. I guess I should put on lipstick or at least comb my hair when I go out for my morning walk.

 

Cameras at the park.

 

I did get a little nervous this morning taking pictures of them taking pictures of me (there should be a word for that).

I’ve been scolded for taking pictures at sensitive places before, like Tiananmen Square.

On one hand, I do feel  safer. I don’t have to worry about anyone spitting in my food when I go out to eat, and if my taxi driver decides to go on a joyride, the whole thing’s on tape. I haven’t seen any graffiti, looting or damaged property. I think there was one murder reported last year in Beijing that I heard about. My biggest fear is someone stealing my bicycle.

Most Chinese people who are interviewed on the subject for local news outlets don’t mind the scrutiny. It’s the government’s job to keep people safe, and the cameras are one tool. Personal privacy is foreign concept in this country anyway.

On the other hand, it’s a little creepy to think Big Brother knows everything about my day, from what time I went to the gym in the morning to what I bought at the grocery store for dinner. If I partake in any suspect behavior, I’m quite sure someone will come knocking.

And I’ve only told you about the cameras. Maybe another time I’ll explain the tracking apps, bank monitoring and media censoring that’s part of everyday life.

How would you feel living under such tight surveillance? Do you think life in your hometown would change if people knew they were being watched? Drop a comment. I’d love to hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments (2,245):

  1. Jeannie

    October 12, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    I would imagine all of this leads to censoring what people think and say – at least in public. The problems of a society that lives under communism. You aren’t truly free. Sometimes that may be good but to Americans that seems hard to swallow.

  2. Paula Kasnitz

    October 12, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Quite disconcerting!
    Continue the adventure and remember to vote!

  3. Janet K Arkills

    October 12, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    You expand my world, and make me know there are real people like you out there, writing about what is happening elsewhere. Keep safe keep writing.

  4. Kirsten Harrington

    October 12, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    Thanks Janet! It’s great to have an outlet to share my experiences.

  5. Kirsten Harrington

    October 12, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    Already done but no sticker!

  6. Kirsten Harrington

    October 12, 2020 at 10:24 pm

    There are some positive aspects to it which I never would have thought.

  7. Ainslie

    October 14, 2020 at 3:50 am

    When I know people are watching me, I think twice about my behavior. If I approach an intersection with red light cameras, I’m much more careful to stop in time, rather then trying to time the light and make it through just in time. I’m guessing people learn what they can and can’t get away with and where. It’s certainly not my preference to live while being watched. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! I love to see your adventures. The country is beautiful!

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