In the technological field, the most commented news is Huawei’s support -through powerful facial recognition software-to the Chinese communist regime to persecute the Uyghur racial minority.
To put it in context, for several decades the Chinese Communist Party has been carrying out fierce persecution against members of the Uyghur community.
Last year, the BBC published an article entitled “China Muslims: Xinjiang schools used to separate children from families.” The piece reported that “China is deliberately separating Muslim children from their families, and preventing them from speaking their language and practicing their religion in the western region of Sinkiang.”
“Records show that, in one city alone, more than 400 children have lost not one but two of their parents who have ended up either in a camp or in prison,” and that is just the tip of the iceberg in relation to the persecution that the Chinese regime has carried out against the Uyghurs.
Huawei collaborates with the Uyghur persecution
According to the news portal Infobae, “Chinese technology giant Huawei has tested facial recognition software that could send automated ” Uyghur alarms” to government authorities when their camera systems identify members of the oppressed minority group, according to an internal document that provides more details about China’s artificial intelligence surveillance regime.
This situation has been proven by a document signed by representatives of Huawei, a finding of the research organization IPVM, shared exclusively by The Washington Post.
The document “shows that the telecommunications company worked in 2018 with the facial recognition company Megvii to test an artificial intelligence camera system that could scan faces in a crowd and estimate the age, sex, and ethnicity of each person,” reports the Argentine website.
The news is very revealing -and worrying-, since details indicate that, if the system developed by Huawei detected or recognized a face of any member of the Muslim racial minority -according to the report- a “Uyghur alarm” was activated and this could reach the Chinese police.
The document, which was found on Huawei’s website, was deleted shortly after The Post and IPVM requested comments from the companies involved.
While human rights activists have reported that this technology has, in recent years, gained ground within China’s police departments, it is now confirmed that the largest telecommunications manufacturer has designed and developed it.
The founder of IPVM – the Pennsylvania-based research company that detected the document shared with The Post – John Honovich, mentioned that this demonstrated how “terrifying” and “totally standardized” this type of discriminatory technology has become.
“This is not an isolated company. This is systematic,” Honovich exclaimed. “A lot of thought went into making sure this ‘Uyghur alarm’ worked.
According to The Washington Post itself, “Huawei and Megvii have announced three surveillance systems using the technology of both companies in the last two years.” But the DC newspaper could not confirm right away if the system that brings the ” Uyghur alarm ” was one of the ones currently for sale.
The newspaper stated that the companies, Huawei and Megvii, recognized that the document is real.
After this story came to light, a spokesman for Huawei, Glenn Schloss, explained that the report “is simply a test and it has not seen real-world application. Huawei only supplies general-purpose products for this kind of testing. We do not provide custom algorithms or applications.”
At the same time, another Megvii spokesperson told the Washington Post “that the company’s systems are not designed to target or label ethnic groups.”
On the other hand, Infobae mentions that “Chinese officials have said that such systems reflect the country’s technological advancement and that their expanded use can help government response personnel and keep people safe.”
Such claims are at odds with the concerns of international human rights advocates, who argue that monitoring and identifying people through AI is a clear demonstration of the dream of the social control that the Chinese regime seeks.
In that sense, Maya Wang, China’s senior researcher for the advocacy group Human Rights Watch, has said “that the country has increasingly used AI-assisted surveillance to closely monitor the general public and oppress minorities, protesters, and others deemed to be threats to the state.”
But beyond the alarming restriction and violation of rights and freedoms at the hands of the Chinese regime against ethnic minorities, there is also a global threat, for if this type of technology is exported as a Chinese product, multiple totalitarian regimes can perfect their weapons to attack the basic and individual freedoms of citizens. And Huawei, at least until now, has been part of this.