China news 30th November 2020
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China news 30th November 2020

Say no to the abuse of “face recognition” by judicial judgement

On November 20, the case of Hangzhou citizen Guo Bing v. Hangzhou Wildlife World Co., Ltd, known as the “first face recognition case” in China, was decided.  The People’s Court of First Instance ruled that Wildlife World should delete the facial feature information submitted by Guo Bing when he applied for the annual card.  It should also compensate Guo Bing for the loss of contract interests and transportation expenses totalling RMB 1,038. 

In April last year, Guo Bing, an associate professor of law, paid 1,360 yuan to purchase the Hangzhou Wildlife World two-person annual card. At that time, he determined he wished to enter the park by fingerprint recognition. He saved the phone number and other information for the park and entered the fingerprint. The park requested to change to facial recognition, so Guo Bing filed a lawsuit.   He claimed that the Wild Animal World store notice (about facial recognition) and short message notification was invalid. He demanded compensation for the annual card fee and card fees on the grounds that Wild Animal World breached the contract and committed fraud.

China news 30th November 2020

Nowadays, society has entered the era of ‘facial’ shopping, ‘facial’ payment, mobile phone ‘facial’ to unlock, entering property using ‘facial’ to open doors.  More and more things can only be achieved by “swiping the face”.  However, while facial scanning brings convenience, it also faces a huge risk of technology abuse and information leakage. Therefore, it is necessary to standardize face recognition and raise the barriers to entry. 

Face recognition must collect and save images or video streams containing faces during specific applications. This information belongs to the individual and is personal information that should be strictly protected by law.  When people use password payment and QR code payment, they hold a bank card or mobile phone as a medium, and both the password and QR code can be changed. After a mobile phone is lost, the password can be changed by reporting the loss, or by other means. 

However, biological information such as a human face is unique and unchangeable. Once leaked, it is irreversible. After face information is stolen, it cannot be restored to a confidential state.  One cannot require the owner to ‘change the password’ through plastic surgery!

by Thiago Matos
by Thiago Matos

In addition to the use of face recognition by some large-scale and more advanced payment institutions and Internet platforms, some property companies and scenic spots have also begun the “face-swiping” mode.  These small and medium-sized enterprises might use face recognition correctly.  But some large enterprises with advanced technology will inevitably have database leaks.  And these property companies, scenic attractions, and others’ databases may be more prone to problems.  When any community or unit can collect facial information at will, the security of that information will inevitably be threatened.  People’s control over their own facial information will inevitably be weakened.  If effective measures are not taken to restrict or prohibit it, face recognition will infringe on personal rights even as it facilitates the management of some companies. For example, you can buy thousands of face photos for two yuan.

Face recognition cannot be done at the expense of security.  At least, users should be given the right to know and choose. “The first case of face recognition” supports individuals.   However, there is still a long way to go to standardize face recognition in various applications.  Some scholars suggest that the bottom line of the application of face recognition technology is that, except for law enforcement activities of specific departments, no institution or individual has the right to investigate and track an individual’s private life through face recognition.

From a long-term perspective, strict regulations in this field should be implemented.  These include raising the threshold for image collection and avoiding a random organization to collect facial information.  We must clarify the principle of not collecting unauthorized information, and give people the right to say no.  We must also prevent someone from forcibly collecting facial information under the threat of not providing services. 


US media: For China, poverty eradication is just the beginning

In an article in ‘Foreign Affairs’ – a US based think-tank – the writers are quoted for their views of China’s drive to eliminate poverty.

Zhang Wenfu has a new house, located in the remote village of Bangdong in southwest China, with white walls and beige tiles. ground. The sign on the front door reads “poor households”, which proves that part of the house’s cost comes from government subsidies and interest-free loans. “Three years ago, we did not have such a good house… Now we have good housing and medical services,” said Zhang, who is in his 40s. “Our standard of living is not very high, but we can eat meat every day.”

Zhang’s house is a small part of China’s grand project to eradicate poverty over the years. 40 years of economic reforms and growth, and 10 years of expanding social welfare, have fundamentally improved the living conditions of more than 800 million Chinese. Since the central government has made poverty eradication its official policy, it has invested more than 61 billion U.S. dollars in this area and added 20.6 billion U.S. dollars in special funds for 2020. 

The result is staggering.

China’s poor population has dropped from 99 million in 2012 to 5.5 million at the end of 2019. The Chinese government now says that despite the epidemic and the resulting global economic recession, poverty will be eliminated by the end of this year.

by Pablo García Saldaña
by Pablo García Saldaña

However, the reality of China’s anti-poverty movement is much more complicated. After living with the rural beneficiaries of the movement for two years, the author clearly that, according to Chinese standards, poverty will indeed be eliminated by the end of this year.  Way to go….

In Bangdong, the poverty alleviation campaign has achieved remarkable results. On the village’s main road, the old dilapidated earth houses are now two or three-story new houses. The government grants each household a subsidy of 50,000 yuan (RMB) and a low-interest or interest-free loan of 50,000 yuan to fund the construction of the house.  Each household can also receive a quarterly sum of money to ensure that their income is above the poverty line. The local government conducts surveys on soil quality, climatic conditions, and altitude to determine suitable cash crops for planting, and provides subsidies to farmers to help them get rid of subsistence agriculture that barely supports their lives. To support the poverty eradication campaign, the government has also invested heavily in infrastructure. Just 12 years ago, more than 40% of the rural population in Yunnan had no road access. In 2017, Bangdong laid its first street. By 2019, all remaining roads in their villages and towns have been modernized.

China’s efforts to eradicate poverty have paid off politically.  Low-income areas and inland areas, such as Bangdong, where poverty alleviation work is actively carried out, have seen the greatest increase in satisfaction with the government. Most rural residents attribute their new prosperity to the Chinese Communist Party.

Despite the undeniable progress made in recent years, many Chinese rural residents are still poor by the standards of developed countries.  Although extreme poverty in China may be disappearing, there are still many problems. After the anti-poverty campaign is over, can people who get out of poverty maintain their current sources of income and obtain education, medical and housing opportunities? 

“This is a question of ideology,” local officials explained. “It is impossible to turn an uneducated person into an entrepreneur.”  Boxes of unsold tea are stacked in the home of Huang Dalong, a resident of Bangdong.  Since he has not received long-term training, he admitted that he does not have any sales network and marketing strategy other than waiting for the tea boss to come. 


Hong Kong is not a destination for job seekers in the Greater Bay Area

In our final article Zao Bao comments on living costs in Hong Kong and the SAR government’s failure to address Hong Kong’s shortage of talent.

In recent days, the establishment has repeatedly encouraged young people to go north for development.   But they rarely reflect on how to increase Hong Kong’s competitiveness. The latest Global Cost of Living Index published by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) shows that Hong Kong has once again become the most expensive city among the 133 cities in the world, and ranks with Paris, France and Zurich, Switzerland.  In the joint development of the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong needs industrial reforms and to attract talent rather than just export young job seekers to other cities. 

How to position and increase competitiveness deserves the government’s reflection and attention.

There is always healthy competition among adjacent cities. On the one hand, the innovation and technology industries in Shenzhen and other Greater Bay Area cities are booming, giving young people more opportunities for development. On the other hand, the cost of living in Hong Kong is high. As a result, Hong Kong cannot attract foreign talent and there may even be a brain drain.

The people are the same; the cost is very different. 

The 2019 survey by the international recruitment agency HAYS showed that real wages in Hong Kong and the Mainland are not vey different.   But the cost of living in the two places is quite different. The purchasing power of Hong Kong’s average salary is only equivalent to US$398,000.   In the mainland it is as high as US$521,000.  A far cry…

In such a poor environment, how can Hong Kong attract talent? The establishment only knows to call on young people to go north to find opportunities. Although the original intention is good, it has neglected to enhance the competitiveness and attractiveness of Hong Kong itself.

The EIU report calculates housing rent is the cause of the high cost of living. In addition to high housing rents due to the abnormal property market in Hong Kong, food and beverages are also likely to be expensive due to expensive shop rents.  However, the Hong Kong government guards its ‘small government-big market’ approach. It evades land resumption and vacancy taxes.  It dares not challenge the vested interests who rely on land for profit. 

Yet Hong Kong is the core of the Greater Bay Area.  

Although Shenzhen is also facing the problem of high living costs and a brain drain, its government has not only actively provided housing subsidies, but also supported specialised talent.  Housing policy led by the government, reduces the cost of living and attracts talent to work and live in peace.  On the other hand, the Hong Kong government still relies mainly on the market, that is companies themselves provide housing allowances for talent. 

by Joshua Fernandez
by Joshua Fernandez

It seems that the establishment and officials do not have the determination to solve the problem. They only plan to export young people to the Greater Bay Area. In fact, Hong Kong itself is one of the cities in the Greater Bay Area, and perhaps its core. If Hong Kong can do a good job in industrial development and attract a talent pool, it will itself promote the overall development of the Greater Bay Area. The SAR government does not reflect on the shortcomings of policies that have made Hong Kong unsuitable for living.  Instead, they regard the export of talent as the antidote to the current employment and social problems in Hong Kong. 

As Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at the 40th anniversary celebration of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, the talent strategy for the joint development of the Greater Bay Area should be to jointly recruit global talent. Therefore, when it comes to “jointly” attracting talent in the Greater Bay Area, Hong Kong not only must focus on talent export.  It also needs to break its long-held policies, reduce living costs, and strengthen talent absorption, so that it will not inhibit the development of the Greater Bay Area.


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