In an attempt to control, survey and keep track of the movements of the population in Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang, the Chinese government has ordered every single car in the region to install a GPS tracker.
Between Feb. 20 and June 30, all cars, bulldozers and trucks will have to obey the order by installing the Chinese-made Beidou satellite navigation system, reports The Guardian. Anybody who refuses will be denied gas at local gas stations in the region.
Additionally, gas stations won’t serve anyone who damages the system or does not pay the 90 yuan (approximately $13) a year for the data fee, reports Global Times. Installation is free, though, so there’s that.
Apparently, the reason for this order lies in the violence that erupts reguarly in the northwestern prefecture, writes The Guardian:
The move comes amid an apparent spike in killing that authorities blame on Islamist extremists and separatists but experts say is also fuelled by ethnic friction between Han Chinese migrants and members of the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority to whom Xinjiang is home.
The government’s justification is, of course, safety.
“All vehicles must install the system, so that they can be tracked wherever they go. It also helps car owners to find their cars quickly if it’s been stolen or taken [by terrorists],” a staffer with the vehicle management station under the traffic police detachment of Bayingol Public Security Bureau told Global Times.
“All vehicles with the system will be recorded and it’s easy to check against current data which ones didn’t install it,” he said.
Recent attacks with links to Xinjiang have included a deadly vehicle crash in Tiananmen Square in 2013 and an explosion in the Xinjiang region capital in 2014.
The relationship between the Chinese government and Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture hasn’t been the smoothest, either. Chinese security forces stage massive anti-terror rallies, where “hundreds of armed men” parade through the streets, reports the South China Morning Post.
Deadly force is sometimes used, according to Shanghaiist:
China has blamed Uighur separatist groups for regular episodes of violence in the region, sometimes cracking down on militants with deadly force. However, in recent years, rather than contain the conflict, China’s efforts seem to have caused the movement to spread outside of the region’s borders to Beijing, Kunming, Bangkok and Kyrgyzstan.
Last November, all residents of the Xinjiang province were ordered to submit their passports to local police stations for “examination and management,” wrote Shanghaiist at the time.
If this sounds like a massive invasion of privacy to you, then you’d be right. Forcing people to allow the government to track their movements and taking away their rights to purchase gasoline if they resist? This is exactly the type of stuff authoritarian governments pull to keep tabs on citizens in order to keep people in line.