70,000 Beijing Taxis Equipped with Hidden Micro-Monitors

September 25, 2009 5:00 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 9:22 pm

Currently 70,000 taxis in Beijing are equipped with a micro-monitor. The monitor connects to a GPS system via satellite. (Getty Images)
Currently 70,000 taxis in Beijing are equipped with a micro-monitor. The monitor connects to a GPS system via satellite. (Getty Images)
Hidden micro-monitors capable of transmitting passenger conversations via satellite have been installed in 70,000 taxis in Beijing, according to taxi drivers and industry officials. Critics worry that the monitors are a violation of privacy rights and suggest the move is related to the upcoming National Day celebration.

The policy of installing new monitors in taxis began during preparations for the Beijing Olympics. Authorities explained it was for protection of the drivers.

Zhao, a taxi driver in Beijing, told The Epoch Times that the previous monitoring system in taxis was a analog signal generator which could transmit a signal to the dispatch center with the push of a button. But Beijing has now equipped taxis with a new system.

“I don’t have a problem if the purpose of the new system is for car safety,” Zhao said. “When it’s for eavesdropping on passengers, it’s inappropriate. People on the other end of the monitor can hear what the passengers say the minute I push a button.”

Wang, another Beijing taxi driver, said the system has been put in all new taxis. “They use the system to monitor anyone who defies the law,” Wang said.

Through this GPS monitoring system, authorities can locate a taxi via satellite. The manufacturer of the new system said the monitors can be switched on remotely without the drivers knowing it. The monitors can also be controlled remotely to shut down the cars.

Beijing resident Wu was unaware of the monitors. “I am afraid that we do not have privacy anymore,” said Wu.

Peng Dingding, a freelance writer in Beijing, believes a legal issue is involved. After a passenger has made a payment to a taxi driver, the taxi becomes a private space, he explained. It is similar to paying for a room in a hotel—the room becomes private during one’s period of stay.

Peng said authorities can monitor a taxi driver’s conversation with the consent of the driver. However, monitoring a passenger’s conversation is a violation of his rights.

Some view the issue in relation to the regime’s concern for maintaining control during the Party’s National Day celebration on Oct. 1, noting that Beijing is being fortified as if preparing to face an enemy. Wu said she has seen policemen carrying guns equipped with bayonets, and  special police and armed forces are patrolling many intersections. “It makes people nervous,” Wu said. “I don’t understand how security measures can turn into this?”

Read the original Chinese article.