The repression directed against the Uighur Muslim minority by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has reached a new stage after Chinese technological giants register patents to detect, track, and monitor Uighurs. In contrast, fears about the repression against such minorities increase.
According to the BBC, Huawei’s patent was originally filed in 2018 with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which was intended to develop deep-learning artificial intelligence techniques to identify various characteristics of pedestrians photographed or filmed on the street.
The document also lists the attributes by which a person could be identified, among which could include “race (Han [China’s biggest ethnic group], Uighur).”
The filed patents were allegedly discovered by the research and video surveillance firm IVPM. Huawei’s website had previously separated the document marked “confidential” by referring to work based on a “Uighur warning system.”
Huawei denied that the systems identified people by their ethnicity and claimed that the website referred to a test rather than a real-world application.
Rushan Abbas, executive director of the rights group Campaign for Uighur, told Reuters, “We cannot ignore the fact that these technologies have been developed to efficiently carry out … brutal oppression.
United Nations officials claim that the CCP is transforming the Xinjiang region, where many Uyghurs live, into a “mass internment camp” thanks to technology identified by human rights groups as key to repression.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK Parliament’s Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and leader of the Conservative Party’s China Research Group, told the BBC: “The Chinese technology giants who support the brutal assault on the Uighur population show us why we, as consumers and as a society, must be careful about who we buy our products from or give a contract to.”
Tugendhat added, “The development of ethnic labeling technology for use by a repressive regime is clearly not behavior that lives up to our standards.”
For his part, IPVM researcher Charles Rollet said: “These technologies allow police in China to go through a large database of faces and flags of faces that the AI has marked as non-Chinese or Uighur. There are important human rights implications.
As Reuters points out, UN estimates indicate that more than one million Chinese Muslims, many of whom belong to the Uighur ethnic minority, have been detained in Xinjiang province, where activist groups have denounced crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Meanwhile, the CCP has repeatedly denied any abuse, arguing that camps in the Xinjiang region provide vocational training and help combat extremism.
However, the CCP is reported to be employing such complexes to force Uighurs into confinement, punishing them, subjecting them to continuous surveillance and forms of political indoctrination to eradicate their culture.
Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch noted that the world should be alarmed by the use of technology in the persecution of Uighurs.