The residents of northwest China's Xinjiang region now have to mandatorily download a mobile app named Jingwangweishi, or "web cleaning soldier", which promises to "clear the trash off your phone", but is speculated to have other nefarious features as well.
According to Financial Times, an independent security researcher named Avram Meitner has claimed that the software also scans phones for digital fingerprints of illicit files, and informs authorities when it finds them.
As per developers, the app is unsophisticated and can be easily bypassed by tech-savvy users. However, the application has posed a threat to privacy and induced paranoia among the less knowledgeable.
It is notable that the region under the authority's microscope has a large number of Turkic Uyghur people, a minority ethnic group of China, who fear a rise of Islamist extremism and a political separatist movement, in Beijing.
Security officers also regularly stop residents of all ethnicities for routine phone checks on the street. Residents say files with Islamic content are especially targetted.
Besides the Uyghur community, Han Chinese residents are now routinely checked for subversive content and banned software, while universities and businesses are asked to install spyware on their desktop computers.
This year, parts of the region also banned naming any newborn explicitly Islamic names.
Reportedly, Uyghur students studying in majority Muslim countries have been called back to China and detained on arrival, and Uyghurs' travel even within China has become heavily circumscribed. Most Uyghurs had their passports confiscated last year, preventing them from leaving China.
The Republic of China had earlier also impinged on the freedom of its citizens by forbidding social media applications including Whatsapp and Facebook.
Among other measures, the street patrols in the region have also intensified, adversely affecting small businesses which are attracting fewer customers now. In addition, mandates to buy metal detectors and hire security personnel for storefronts above a certain size have also cut into their profits.
Xinjiang's new party secretary, Chen Quanguo, has brought major overhaul of security policies, which has resulted in the clampdown on region's freedom and security.
The suppressive security against Islamist terrorism has also been extended to the Chinese citizens who hold Kazakh green cards. Despite the green card that allows them to travel and live in the central Asian nation, the Chinese Kazakhs have been detained and questioned after returning to China this year.