Taxicabs in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, that are newly installed with cameras recently encountered their first hostile reaction from a woman who said they violated her privacy and image.
The city has just equipped 1,000 of its 7,000-plus taxis with cameras that automatically take and store one photo of each passenger entering them, the Xinjiang Metropolis Daily reported yesterday.
The woman complainant, who gave the Xinjiang newspaper her surname Guo only, seemed, in common with other Urumqi locals, unfamiliar with the system and also angry about it.
After several minutes of berating taxi driver Zeng Xianzhong, Guo snapped the camera down from its position above his head.
Whether or not to install cameras in taxis has provoked wide public debate around the city, and has been a similar source of controversy in other major cities such as Chongqing and Wuhan. Xinjiang, however, is the most aggressive of all in its intent to install cameras in all its taxis within the year.
As well as being concerned about their privacy, many people are also worried that their images may be misused.
"It's so unsettling, like being candidly snapped," real estate agent Shen Lan said, according to the newspaper.
Cameras owned by public organizations such as subway and traffic monitors in Shanghai and Shenzhen are known to have been abused to invade citizens' privacy.
But none of the pictures taken in taxis will be used for commercial purposes, and cameras are aimed at all passengers, according to the Urumqi taxi association.
These cameras are in fact crucial to guaranteeing taxi drivers' security, which has been increasingly threatened by violent crime, especially robbery, in recent years, the city's office of public transport management said.
In the first three months of this year, there were five reported muggings of taxi-drivers, and two drivers were killed in February and March.
Taxi-targeted crime was disturbingly rampant in 2003, when there were 98 reported robberies, five drivers were killed and 38 injured.
Zhang Bing, a lawyer at the Hengda Law Firm in Urumqi, said that taxi photographing does not infringe privacy or image because the inside of a taxi is a public space, and pictures are used to maintain social stability and combat crimes only.
Source: China Daily