Big Brother’s watching

Gaofen w

If many Chinese were unaware of Gaofen-1’s existence, that changed when a news item about the surveillance satellite became a popular discussion topic last week. According to China News Service the satellite – which operates 300 miles above the earth – spotted huge marijuana fields in Jilin province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) even said that they were the largest drug fields discoveries since 1949, when the Communists came to power (and banned narcotics).

However, the LA Times noted that “the authorities may be having second thoughts about publicising their capabilities”. After media widely reported on the marijuana find, the item was deleted from the CNSA’s website. The Ministry of Public Security flatly denied the existence of the fields too.

Gaofen-1 has been orbiting since April 2013. It was joined in space last week by Gaofen-2, an even more advanced satellite capable of identifying objects on earth the size of a dog. Gaofen means ‘high resolution’, although public reaction to the satellites’ capabilities wasn’t wholly positive. The LA Times says one of the most forwarded comments on social media was: “I can’t sunbathe on my rooftop anymore. This is really annoying!”

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