Facial recognition used to catch fugitive among 60,000 concert-goers in China

Police officers display their AI-powered smart glasses - REUTERS
Police officers display their AI-powered smart glasses - REUTERS

Its the ultimate music lover’s fantasy - being picked out of the audience by your idol at a huge rock concert for a fleeting moment of on-stage fame and adulation.

But in China, you are more likely to be picked out by one of thousands of police surveillance cameras which link people to crimes through advanced facial recognition technology.

That's what happened last week to a 31-year-old man who was held by police for questioning over an "economic dispute" as he waited with more than 60,000 fans of Hong Kong's Jacky Cheung for a night of pumping Cantopop.

The suspect, who was identified only as Mr Ao, had driven almost 60 miles to the concert in the south-eastern city of Nanchang with his wife and several friends, reports say.

But shortly after the music began, police approached him to say that his facial features indicated he was wanted in connection with an economic crime they had investigated in the nearby Guangxi region.

“The suspect was shocked that he was found among tens of thousands of people, “ said Li Jin, a local police officer, according to the China Daily.

It’s the latest example of facial recognition being used to catch suspects for a wide range of crimes and misdemeanours in China.

A police officer wearing a pair of smartglasses with a facial recognition system at Zhengzhou East Railway Station in Zhengzhou in China's central Henan province. - Credit: AFP
A police officer wearing a pair of smartglasses with a facial recognition system at Zhengzhou East Railway Station, central China Credit: AFP

Police wore ‘facial recognition glasses’ at a train station last month which resulted in 33 people being detained for crimes including kidnapping, hit-and-run and using false IDs.

Meanwhile, another 25 suspects were held for historic crimes at a beer festival last year after they were picked out by cameras.

The technology works by cameras transmitting images of people back to a huge criminal records database.

If there is a match between individuals and an unsolved crime, police who are at the scene are informed to detain the suspect. 

Facial recognition has been rolled out in many aspects of every day life in the country, where there are few concerns over privacy.

Additional reporting by Christine Wei.

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