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Chinese prefecture orders GPS trackers in every car in effort to curb violence

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Bayingolin officials say real-time vehicle tracking will boost public safety in restive northwest region

Beijing To Raise Car Emission Standards For 2008 Olympics Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images

Drivers in a restive Chinese province will be required to install GPS trackers on their cars, the Associated Press reports, as part of a public safety measure that the government announced this week. The measure began rolling out Monday in the Bayingolin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture in the northwest Xinjiang region, which has seen outbursts of violence in recent years.

By June 30th, all private and government vehicles in Bayingolin will have to install real-time GPS trackers that use China’s Beidou satellite system, developed as an alternative to US-made systems. Vehicles will also be tracked using RFID tags installed in license plates. Citing local media, the AP reports that gas stations will only serve cars that have installed the equipment.

A statement posted on Loulan News, the Bayingolin government’s propaganda outlet, said that the initiative will “ensure social security and safety and promote social stability and harmony.” Authorities in Xinjiang have blamed recent attacks on separatists affiliated with the Uighur minority group, while Uighur activists say they face ongoing government repression and discrimination that continues to fuel unrest. Hundreds of Chinese troops recently staged an anti-terror parade in the capital of Xinjiang, vowing to crack down on violence in the region.

“There is a severe threat from international terrorism, and cars have been used as a key means of transport for terrorists as well as constantly serving as weapons,” Bayingolin officials said in an announcement cited by The Guardian. “It is therefore necessary to monitor and track all vehicles in the prefecture.”