Big Brother in China is watching, with 30 million surveillance cameras

With the acceleration of China's Skynet program, there are now 20 to 30 million surveillance cameras in the country, compared to only 2.75 million in 2007.

If you're in China, smile: You're probably on one of the country's approximately 30 million surveillance cameras.

Since 2005, the Chinese government has been installing surveillance cameras throughout the country, which now total around 20 to 30 million, according to National Public Radio.

According to NPR, cameras are located in every conceivable location, from highways and taxis to sports stadium stands and outside people's homes. They have also been installed in religious buildings to monitor people worshipping.

Authorities have also installed cameras in classrooms, the source reported, allegedly to discourage cheating. But professors and students fear it is to stifle any dissension against the Communist Party. 

From 2009 to 2011, China spent $16 billion on its nationwide surveillance system, dubbed Skynet, according to the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.

In 2011 alone, 13 million cameras were installed, and camera installations are expected to rise by 20 percent each year for the next five years. China has a population of 6.7 billion, with 23 million people in Shanghai, its largest city. NPR reported finding 11 cameras within a mere 100-foot radius in the city. Beijing, China's capital of 19.6 million, has roughly 800,000 surveillance cameras. 

It is a huge change since 2007, when Great Britain was found to have one-and-a-half times as many surveillance cameras as China despite having an immensely smaller population, according to the Daily Mail. At that time, China had only 2.75 million cameras, the source said, while the U.K. had 4.2 million closed-circuit TV cameras, or one for every 14 people.

While the Chinese government claims the cameras help deter crime and aid police in pursuing suspects, critics say they are mostly intended to suppress dissenting political and religious beliefs, according to NPR.

Li Tiantian, a human rights lawyer, told NPR that Chinese state police tried to get her boyfriend to break up with her by showing him photos of other men she had been involved with, which were obtained from surveillance camera videos.

"Many people have been deceived by the government," she told NPR. "They think this government is OK and it wouldn't do such dirty, disgusting and shameless things. I feel they are all like poisonous snakes. I fear them and hate them."

Hu Jia, a pro-democracy activist who was jailed for three years for "inciting subversion of state power," said the proliferation of surveillance cameras is merely another tool the Communist Party uses to control the Chinese people, according to USA Today.

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