The Chinese government has been keeping a secret watchlist on 700 Americans, including government workers, CEOs and R&B artist Ashanti, after they traveled through Shanghai airport, according to a cybersecurity group.
A bombshell database leaked to Australian cybersecurity consultancy Internet 2.0 and obtained by the New York Post reveals China collected the names, dates of birth and passport numbers of 697 US citizens between 2018 and 2020.
The data was collected when the individuals traveled through an immigration checkpoint at Pudong International Airport, the Post reported.
It was then stored on servers at the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, which reports to the centralized Ministry of Public Security in Beijing – China’s main police and law enforcement authority.
Among the Americans targeted were children as young as nine, a US State Department employee in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs and executives at the likes of Apple and Pfizer.
In total, the database contains information on over 5,000 foreigners who have traveled through Shanghai since 2017.
Intelligence agencies in both the UK and Australia have launched investigations after it emerged last week that hundreds of citizens from both nations were on the watchlist.
Airport security staff check information of inbound passengers at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The Chinese government has been keeping a secret watchlist on 700 Americans, after they traveled through the airport, according to a cybersecurity group
The database includes details about Grammy-winning singer Ashanti (pictured), government workers and CEOs
The database includes details about Grammy-winning singer Ashanti Shequoiya Douglas including her name, birth date and that she traveled through Pudong International Airport in August 2018, according to the Post.
It also includes researchers and professors at US universities including a high-ranking employee at New York University Shanghai.
US executives from leading tech firms including Apple and Microsoft, as well as from healthcare firms like GE Healthcare and Pfizer – which is behind one of the COVID-19 vaccines – also appear on the list.
The list also includes a Merrill Lynch exec, documentarian mother-of-two who divides her time between California and South Korea, college students, tourists and some children as young as nine.
It is not clear why the data was collected or if the individuals on the list were flagged for a specific reason or were randomly selected.
Internet 2.0 CEOs Robert Potter and David Robertson told the Post the spreadsheet shows ‘how China is building its surveillance state with technology and how it leverages data as a means of control.’
The data was stored on servers at the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, which reports to the centralized Ministry of Public Security in Beijing – China’s main police and law enforcement authority. Pictured a Shanghai Public Security Bureau building
‘This system gives us insight into the ambitions of China to collect what it can, to impose its will within its jurisdiction and to violate norms of privacy and accountability,’ they said.
News that US citizens had been placed on the watchlist comes one week after it emerged China had collected the data of UK and Australian citizens.
A report from British newspaper The Telegraph revealed around 150 Britons were on the Chinese security watchlist, including businessmen, doctors and teachers.
Those on the database include Margaret Johnson OBE, head of an advertising agency with an office in Shanghai, an Army officer and two Virgin Atlantic pilots.
The information seen by the paper related to British visitors who had passed through the airport in a six-month period in 2018.
It also includes researchers and professors at US universities including a high-ranking employee at New York University Shanghai (pictured)
MI5 is investigating the files, which emerged amid escalating tensions between the UK and China over human rights abuses of the Uyghur minority group.
The list also includes 7,600 Uyghur Muslims in Shanghai, who China marked as ‘terrorists’ on the list, the Telegraph reported.
A total of 161 Australian citizens are also on the list including a former intelligence chief, according to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last week.
Margaret Johnson OBE, head of an advertising agency with an office in Shanghai, is also on the list of Britons
Geoff Miller, a former Office of National Assessments director-general and ambassador to Korea and Japan, was flagged when he traveled to Shanghai in September 2018 with his wife, the outlet reported.
The data was provided to Australian security officials, who are now investigating.
It is not clear if US authorities have been provided the data and if an investigation has been launched.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the US State Department and the CIA for comment.
It comes as the Biden administration suggested the US is considering boycotting the Beijing Olympics over the mass incarceration of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim people.
Human rights groups believe at least one million Uyghurs and other minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
It is also not clear who the other thousands of people are on the Chinese watchlist.
Internet 2.0 first obtained the database late last year, included in a trove of 1.1 million records from an insecure server inside the Shanghai Public Security Bureau.
MI5 is investigating the files (pictured the HQ in London) after it emerged around 150 Brits were also on the watchlist