BEIJING—In the wake of criticism over their video monitoring and digital tracking of civilians, Chinese government officials defended their move toward mass surveillance Thursday by explaining that life was a grand performance, a ballet of sorts, that they were privileged to bear witness to. “Each of our citizens is a star of their own unique story, and who are we but spectators, blessed to preserve their performances and make of them something truly immortal?” said Police Commissioner-General Zhao Kezhi, confirming that the methodical installation of thousands of facial-recognition cameras across the nation was simply a means of capturing the fleeting spark of life, to transfigure existence into a more meaningful experience. “Every sentence uttered, every message sent, every clandestine look is worthy of such curation, so it will always be available for future contemplation and reflection. Is each day not its own epic, full of minor characters, heroes, and of course villains who oppose the party and must be ruthlessly purged from our society? From the single protester running from riot police to the provincial governor being blackmailed into silence, it is our solemn duty to commit to the permanence of film the great unfurling flower that is the human spirit.” At press time, top law enforcement officials were seen waxing poetic over the subtle majesty of a piece of closed-circuit footage that showed a Muslim in Xinjiang being beaten into renouncing her faith.