Delivering real-time surveillance services to handheld devices over the Internet is an interesting application in mobile environments. Developing such system necessitates tackling considerable design challenges including device shortcomings, platform heterogeneity and bandwidth limitation. In this paper we present a Java-based approach for developing a mobile surveillance system which allows PDA users to overcome these challenges. This approach applies emerging Java technologies including J2ME, RMI, and JMF for mobile computing, handheld devices, distributed computing, and multimedia computing. To achieve the thin-client goal in the post-PC era, a textual-based application-level communication protocol is also designed. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our design approach via actual experimentations on the Palm PDA. With the advent of J2ME standardization, our system is expected to be generically applicable to various handheld and mobile devices.