Chinese university puts CCTV in dormitories to encourage ‘good study habits’
A university in central China has reportedly been using surveillance cameras to monitor virtually every inch of its 73-hectare (181-acre) campus, including its classrooms and dormitories.
The Wuchang University of Technology in the city of Wuhan reportedly introduced the technology last year, paying 6 million yuan (about £645,000) in order to keep closer tabs on its 12,500 undergraduates.
A 100-strong team of officials has been tasked with monitoring the images as they are captured, according to a report on cnhubei.com, a news website in Hubei province, where the university is located.
Sun Yi, from the university’s business school, said the move was designed to encourage “good study habits” among students.
Yu Chengqing, a professor, claimed the cameras had helped improve students’ behaviour by stamping out both smartphones and siestas.
“After the cameras were installed the study environment improved a great deal,” one unnamed employee was quoted as saying. “Phenomena such as playing with phones, napping or chatting during class have virtually disappeared.”
One student interviewed by the website, Yan Yue, said being placed under surveillance in the classroom had improved discipline and helped motivate students.
However, speaking to a local newspaper, the Chutian Metropolis Daily, others expressed unease.
One claimed many female students were “uncomfortable” that even the university’s halls of residence were being subjected to surveillance and said this was a particular problem during the summer when students wore fewer clothes.
Internet users also reacted to the revelation with suspicion.
“It’s a university, not a prison,” one critic wrote on Weibo, a Chinese site similar to Twitter.
“Can I suggest installing surveillance cameras in the bedrooms of the university’s president and [Communist] party secretary?” said another.
A major surveillance boom is under way in China with authorities now using millions of closed circuit cameras to keep an eye on everything from traffic and sporting events to borders and government opponents.
Political dissidents have complained of waking up to find CCTV cameras have been installed outside their homes in what they believe is an attempt to spy on and intimidate them.
The world of academia has also been infiltrated by monitoring technology, with several top universities deploying CCTV in classrooms over the last five years.
In 2014 authorities in the south-western province of Guizhou ordered universities to install monitoring systems in their classrooms.
Officials claimed the move was designed to improve their ability to “appraise” academics’ work but it was widely interpreted as part of an attempt to monitor whether scholars were toeing the Communist party line in class.
Xi, whose daughter studied at Harvard, has overseen a major crackdown on free speech as well as an attempt to purge supposedly subversive foreign ideas from universities, which he has called China’s “ideological frontline”.