Activists Say China’s Minority Oppression Is “Turbocharged” With Technology

Beijing – Muslims in China’s Xinjiang were “arbitrarily” selected for arrest by a computer program allegedly displaying suspicious behavior, activists said Wednesday in a report highlighting the role of big data in Oppression in the troubled region. US-based NGO Human Rights Watch said leaked police records listing over 2,000 detainees from Aksu Prefecture are further evidence of “how technology is fueling China’s brutal repression of Turkish Muslims in Xinjiang.”

Beijing has been heavily criticized internationally for its policies in the resource-rich area where, according to right-wing groups, up to a million Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities were held in internment camps.

China is defending the facilities as vocational training centers to eradicate terrorism and improve employment opportunities.

FILE PHOTO: A Chinese police officer takes his position on the road near an official vocational training center in Yining

A Chinese police officer takes guards on a street near an official re-education center in Yining, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, September 4, 2018.


Surveillance spending in Xinjiang has bloated in recent yearsWith face recognition, iris scanners, DNA collection and artificial intelligence used across the province to prevent terrorism.

HRW said it received the list of detailed sentences from mid-2016 to late 2018 from an anonymous source who had previously provided audiovisual content from a facility in Aksu.

The group gave an example of “Ms. T” imprisoned for “Sensitive Country Links” who had received a series of calls from a foreign number belonging to her sister.

A look at China’s efforts to silence Muslims


NGO researchers spoke to the woman and learned that the police interrogated her sister in Xinjiang but had not had direct contact with her family in the province since then.

People were tagged with a program called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform, which collected data from surveillance systems in Xinjiang before officials decided whether to send them to camps, according to HRW.

The group said their research suggests that the “vast majority” of people have been reported to authorities for legal conduct, including calling relatives abroad without a fixed address or repeatedly turning off their phones.

Only around 10% of the people on the list have been detained for terrorism or extremism.

The Uighurs of China

The Uighurs of China

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In the list of parts of which were shown to AFP, the reason for the detention of many people was described as simply “flagged” by the integrated platform.

The rights group did not release the full contents of the list and raised security concerns for the person who leaked it.

China’s State Department spokesman Zhao Lijian on Wednesday accused Human Rights Watch of “causing trouble” and said the report was “irrefutable.”

The local Aksu government and Xinjiang regional authorities did not immediately respond to AFP’s requests for comments.

In Huawei, China's tech giant

A Huawei employee walks past a facial recognition camera display on April 26, 2019 at the company’s Bantian campus in Shenzhen, China.

Kevin Frayer / Getty

Separately, US-based surveillance research firm IPVM said in a report Tuesday that Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei was involved in testing facial recognition software that could send warnings to police if it recognized the faces of Uighur minorities.

An internal Huawei report quoted by Huawi, removed from the company’s website but still visible in Google search, showed that the software tests for “Uighur warnings” and “detection based on age, gender, ethnicity.” “Perspective of facial images” has passed. “

Huawei said Wednesday that the program “has seen no real application” and that the company “only provides general-purpose products for these types of tests”.

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