“In practice if there is no evidence the suspect could still be charged,”

China is using surveillance technology that resembles that of the 2002 film starring Tom Cruise, Minority Report, to predict crime.

The FT reports that companies are partnering with police in China to develop AI that will identify and apprehend suspects before the crime is committed.

“If we use our smart systems and smart facilities well, we can know beforehand . . . who might be a terrorist, who might do something bad,” Li Meng, vice-minister of science and technology, said on Friday.

Cloud Walk, a facial recognition company, has been developing a system that monitors and tracks individuals movements. If an individual purchases a weapon, for example, the software marks their risk as dangerously high.

“The police are using a big-data rating system to rate highly suspicious groups of people based on where they go and what they do,” a company spokesperson told the Financial Times.

The individual is marked as more risky if they “frequently visits transport hubs and goes to suspicious places like a knife store”, the spokesperson added. Hardware stores and other shops that sell items that could potentially be used as a weapon are marked as high risk too.

“Of course, if someone buys a kitchen knife that’s OK, but if the person also buys a sack and a hammer later, that person is becoming suspicious,” said the Cloud Walk spokesman.

Facial recognition cameras are also being used by the state to crack down on minor crimes such as jaywalkers, who are named and shamed through the captured footage.

Furthermore, crowd analysis is can also be used to detect suspicious people in crowds.

The AI also has a “personal re-identification” function that matches an individuals identity even if they are wearing different clothing multiple locations.

“We can use re-ID to find people who look suspicious by walking back and forth in the same area, or who are wearing masks,” said Leng Biao, professor of bodily recognition at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “With re-ID, it’s also possible to reassemble someone’s trail across a large area.”

Critics question whether China’s judicial system can manage the necessary checks and balances. Chinese law does not allow an individual to be charged for a crime they have not yet committed but suspects can be charged with attempt.

“In practice if there is no evidence the suspect could still be charged,” said Li Xiaolin, a partner at Beijing Weiheng Law Firm. “In China wrongful verdicts with no evidence are very hard to reverse on appeal, because of the judicial system.”

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