China is trying out a new facial recognition system that tracks targeted people when they stray beyond designated ”safe areas”. 

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Authorities in Xinjiang, an autonomous border region dominated by China’s largely Muslim Uighur minority, have been testing the software since 2017, according to reports. 

Police are alerted when tracked individuals venture more than 300 metres from their home or workplace, Bloomberg reported.

But critics have raised concerns the “alarm project”, led by state defence contractor China Electronics Technology Group, is transforming the region into a high-tech police state.

“A system like this is obviously well-suited to controlling people,” said security expert Jim Harper, executive vice president of the libertarian-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute. “‘Papers, please’ was the symbol of living under tyranny in the past. Now, government officials don’t need to ask.” 

The Xinjiang region – home to 10 million Muslim ethnic Uighurs - borders both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has become one of the world’s most heavily policed places. 

The facial recognition drive forms part of a bigger campaign to increase domestic surveillance across the country. 

In October, President Xi Jinping laid out his vision for China to become the next superpower, and accelerated its surveillance programs.