It’s no secret that the People’s Republic of China uses the latest technology to monitor Chinese citizens at home and abroad — and does so with the express intention of maintaining the Chinese Communist Party’s power by punishing any behavior deemed subversive or dangerous.
But what if other countries buy the same technology from Beijing for the same reason? It’s already happening. This is one of the reasons the United States is so concerned about 5G, the new fifth-generation wireless that will form the backbone of future economies and public services.
The concern is that Beijing could use 5G to further repress citizens and that other countries could too.
Some authoritarian regimes already suppress their citizens and 5G might enable more human rights abuses.
Nicolás Maduro announced in June 2019 that the People’s Republic of China will help bring 5G technology to Venezuela, which will further allow the illegitimate leader to control Venezuelans’ lives.
Venezuelans’ internet usage and activity is already monitored and censored by the government, and infractions found to be in violation of statutes are punishable by law.
One of Maduro’s surveillance methods is the Fatherland Card, which combines a voter identification card and a mobile payment system built by his regime with the help of ZTE, a Chinese telecom firm.
The card tracked those who voted for Maduro’s Socialist party and rewarded them with access to food and services. Those who didn’t vote for Maduro were unable to access basic social welfare programs. This is one example of Maduro using both Chinese-furnished technology and basic necessities as a weapon against the people of Venezuela.
Maduro also indicated that his regime is taking steps to build and launch the Guaicaipuro satellite, the third that Venezuela will have with the support of China, the Associated Press reported.
The Chinese telecommunication company Huawei has been providing services to Iran for years. If Huawei begins to roll out its 5G technology in Iran, the Iranian regime will be equipped with the newest technology to spy on, track, and control its people.
Iran ranked second only to the People’s Republic of China as the worst abuser of internet freedom in Freedom House’s 2019 report, “Freedom on the Net: The Crisis of Social Media.” Iranian authorities “have boasted of a 42,000-strong army of volunteers who monitor online speech” of Iranian citizens, the report states.
In November 2019, the Iranian government shut down the internet for 136 hours as its citizens protested higher gas prices. The regime used the internet blackout to hide atrocities, including scores of deaths.
“Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted,” U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr wrote in a letter to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on November 13. “At this critical moment […] we should not signal that Huawei and ZTE are anything other than a threat to our collective security.”