China Placed 700 Americans Who Passed Through Shanghai Airport on Watchlist Boats travel on the Huangpu River as the skyline of the city is is seen on August 28, 2020 in Shanghai, China. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
By Theodore Bunker | Wednesday, 07 April 2021 05:35 PM
China has kept a watchlist of almost 700 Americans who traveled through the main airport in Shanghai, a list that includes government employees, business executives and even celebrities, the New York Post reports.
The Australia-based cybersecurity company Internet 2.0 obtained access to a database that included a spreadsheet of 697 names of American citizens, including some children, who passed through Pudong International Airport between 2018 and 2020. The list, which the firm leaked to the Post, includes finance, technology and biomedical executives from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Merrill Lynch and Pfizer. It also lists Grammy Award-winning singer Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas, who traveled through the airport in August 2018.
The list also includes a State Department worker based in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, a high-ranking administrator at New York University Shanghai and several other researchers and professors at American educational institutions.
Internet 2.0 said that the database provides “an unprecedented view on how China is building its surveillance state with technology and how it leverages data as a means of control.”
The firm’s co-chief executives, Robert Potter and David Robinson, added that “This system gives us insight into the ambitions of China to collect what it can, to impose its will within its jurisdiction and to violate norms of privacy and accountability.”
The Post notes that “It is unclear why the Americans on the Chinese list were flagged while passing through an immigration checkpoint at the airport. Experts also aren’t sure whether the travelers were specifically selected to be included in the database, or just swept up in a broader surveillance exercise.”
The list is not limited to Americans, and includes 161 Australians, over 100 Britons, and a blacklist database that lists thousands of Uyghur Muslims who have been interrogated or questioned, with many of them being deemed “terrorists.”
Internet 2.0 says that this illustrates “how China blurs the boundaries between law and order, counter-terrorism and political crimes,” adding, “Within this system there is limited restraint as all are collected on.”
Samantha Hoffman of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that she’s seen similar databases, noting: “I’ve seen evidence of the same system type being developed in other cities and provinces across China in a standardized way.
“Although this data is showing information from a limited time period, it shows how foreigners could get caught up in China’s surveillance state when they’ve passed through the country, even if that system isn’t fully established yet.”