A spent Chinese rocket booster destroyed part of a village near the launching site

On at 8:55am local time on Saturday, November 23, 2019, the Chinese government "successfully" launched a Long March 3B carrier rocket into orbit. Leaving from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, the Yuanzheng-1 upper was carrying two Beidou satellites—basically China's version of GPS.

I say "successfully" in quotes because, while the rocket and satellites reached their destination, they also happened to drop one of their lower rocket boosters on someone's house, along with some toxic propellant gas:

But worst of all? This isn't the first time in recent history that it's happened, either.

According to SpaceNews, residents within the calculated drop zones were given an evacuation notice, and advised against approaching the potential wreckage of their homes. Based on a quick perusal of comments on Twitter (and the ones I can parse from the Chinese social media service Sina Weibo), the Chinese government allegedly compensates people when something like this happens. I certainly hope that's true, though I wouldn't bet money on it. And even if it is, the fact that the government keeps launching rockets with the knowledge that the boosters may come down and destroy homes and lives is concerning enough.

Presumably, the Chinese government doesn't want to launch any rockets on the their coasts for fear of pissing off or threatening their neighbors—it's probably easier to handle your own citizens than deal with an accidental booster falling on someone in South Korea. Read the rest

The Chinese government is putting tracking chips into school uniforms to watch every move kids make

Just when you thought that the Chinese government's extensive surveillance of the country's citizens couldn't get any creepier or more intrusive, Xi Jingping slyly raises an eyebrow and asks the west to hold his Tsingtao:

From The Epoch Times:

In China’s latest quest to build an all-seeing surveillance state, schools have become part of the state’s monitoring apparatus.

Students at more than 10 schools in Guizhou Province, one of China’s poorest provinces, and the neighboring Guangxi region are now required to wear “intelligent uniforms,” which are embedded with electronic chips that track their movements.

The uniforms allow school officials, teachers, and parents to keep track of the exact times that students leave or enter the school, Lin Zongwu, principal of the No. 11 School of Renhuai in Guizhou Province, told the state-run newspaper Global Times on Dec. 20.

If students skip school without permission, an alarm will be triggered.

If students try to game the system by swapping uniforms, an alarm also will sound, as facial-recognition equipment stationed at the school entrance can match a student’s face with the chip embedded in the uniform.

Each of the "intelligent uniforms" contain two tracking chips which, according to the company that makes them, can withstand temperatures of up to 150 degrees Celsius and at least 500 runs through a washing machine -- so much for accidentally destroying the hardware. In addition to keeping track of the whereabouts of the kids that wear them for every moment of their school day, the uniforms' chip set can also tell when a child is nodding off during the school day and be used to make cashless purchases of school lunches and other educational necessities. Read the rest

Trump administration considering deep background checks on Chinese students

If you want an example of how big of a problem Chinese espionage is, you needn't look any further than the warnings that Canada and the United States have been throwing at corporations and governmental organizations about the use of gear built by tech companies with ties to the Chinese government.

Apparently, the issue extends beyond the use of smartphones and cellular networking hardware built by Huawei and ZTE: the US Government is thinking about conducting deep background checks on Chinese nationals coming to the United States in pursuit of their education. Spies! They're everywhere!

From IntelNews.Org:

...the Trump administration is reportedly considering the possibility of imposing deeper background checks and additional vetting on all Chinese nationals wishing to study in the US. Citing “a US official and three congressional and university sources”, Reuters said on Thursday that the measures would apply to all Chinese students wishing to register in undergraduate and graduate academic programs in the US. The news agency quoted a “senior US official” as saying that “no Chinese student who’s coming [to the US] is untethered from the state […. They all have] to go through a party and government approval process”. Reuters reported that the proposed plan includes a comprehensive examination of the applicants’ phone records and their presence on social media platforms. The goal would be to verify that the applicants are not connected with Chinese government agencies. As part of the proposed plan, US law enforcement and intelligence agencies would provide counterintelligence training to university officials.

Read the rest

Electric vehicle makers serving up customer location data to China on a silver platter

There's been quite a bit of bad ink surrounding Tesla electric vehicles this year: delays in production, growing rumors about subpar customer service, former employees blowing the whistle on dangerous, indifferent working conditions in Tesla assembly plants and logistical woes to name a few. According to The Washington Post, Tesla owners in China can add in-car state surveillance to the list.

Apparently, the Chinese government has demanded that Tesla vehicles purchased in China send a steady stream of information concerning the vehicle's whereabouts and who knows what else to the Chinese government, in real-time. It's some greasy, invasive bullshit that comes at a time when China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, has been cracking down on dissent, privacy and freedoms in the country.

At the very least, Tesla isn't alone: other makers of electric vehicles are being forced to make their customers' information available to the Chinese government as well.

From The Washington Post:

More than 200 manufacturers, including Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Mitsubishi and U.S.-listed electric vehicle start-up NIO, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to government-backed monitoring centers, The Associated Press has found. Generally, it happens without car owners’ knowledge.

The automakers say they are merely complying with local laws, which apply only to alternative energy vehicles. Chinese officials say the data is used for analytics to improve public safety, facilitate industrial development and infrastructure planning, and to prevent fraud in subsidy programs.

But other countries that are major markets for electronic vehicles — the United States, Japan, across Europe — do not collect this kind of real-time data.

Read the rest