Thousands of drivers in a vast section of Xinjiang, China’s heavily Muslim northwestern region, are being required to install GPS-style tracking devices in their cars after recent bouts of unrest. As The Guardian reports,
Yang Shu, a terrorism expert at Lanzhou University in north-west China, said the tracking devices would help bolster the government’s fight against terror in a vast but sparsely populated region where about 1.5 million residents are spread over an area almost twice the size of the United Kingdom…
Yang said the installation of such devices – which he believed was part of a pilot project that would eventually be rolled out across Xinjiang – was far cheaper than putting up tens of thousands of security cameras.
The devices, which rely on China’s homegrown GPS alternative, BeiDou, must be installed on the roughly 20,000 vehicles in the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, according to a government order issued earlier this month. A police official said vehicle owners will need to pay 90 RMB per year for the use of the devices, or about $13, according to Radio Free Asia; those who don’t install them by the end of June won’t be allowed to buy fuel at gas stations in the region.
In recent weeks, the Chinese military has beefed up its presence in the region—and held mass anti-terror parades—after two deadly attacks in which more than a dozen people were slain. The authorities blame the violence in Xinjiang Province on Islamist extremists and separatists, but experts blame friction between the Muslim Uighur ethnic group and ethnic Han Chinese newcomers. Following deadly ethnic rioting in 2009, the government shut off internet access to the region for months, and the government has since suspended access by residents trying to evade internet filters, The New York Times has reported.