Mass Iris Scan Collection in Qinghai: 2019–2022

Key Findings According to a February 2020 report in the publication Bitter Winter, police in Qinghai Province in China have conducted a program of compulsory iris scan collection targeting residents of the city Tsoshar (Haidong). Building on Bitter Winter’s work, this report finds further evidence of police-led mass iris scan collection in Qinghai, a region with a population that is 49.4% non-Han, including Tibetans and Hui Muslims. The evidence in this report includes details of iris scan collection in three regions of Qinghai, the history of the program, how police collect data, the involvement of Chinese surveillance company Super Red, and how many iris scans police have collected. Of the 189 publicly available sources we uncovered, 53 contained figures for the number of iris scans police had collected. Based on our analysis of these 53 reports, we estimate that between March 2019 and July 2022, police may have collected between roughly 1,248,075 and 1,452,035 iris scans, representing between one fifth (21.1%) and one quarter (25.6%) of Qinghai’s total population (5.9 million). The number of irises scanned would make mass iris scan collection in Qinghai the largest known program conducted in China relative to population, with the possible exception of an earlier program in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Police have given a number of justifications for mass iris scan collection, including fighting crime, finding missing people, and upgrading national ID cards. Based on our analysis, the lack of a single justification for mass iris scan collection may reflect the

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