Huawei’s Prison Camp Technology Goes Global

Chinese company's network equipment enables mass persecution, is being exported around world
July 1, 2020 Updated: July 5, 2020


Huawei, the embattled Chinese network equipment provider, has a new accusation to address. In the West, the company has become well known for its 5G network equipment and as the second-largest maker of handsets in the world. It is also a leader in AI technology.

However, Huawei has a much darker side to it as an instrument of policy for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). You may recall that the company’s leadership has been accused of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran, leading to the arrest of CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada in December of 2018, where she remains in custody.

Huawei Spyware Is Everywhere

But Huawei has been condemned by the United States and others for building spyware into its hardware and other back doors for data gathering and theft from network users. The use of Huawei 5G network equipment among allies of the United States, such as the UK, has been a contentious subject.

Accordingly, U.S. authorities have warned allies that proceeding with Huawei equipment installation would lead to a minimization of the sharing of sensitive and security information. Specifically, the United States has asked the UK to refrain from using Huawei for its 5G network upgrade, citing clear security risks.

As a consequence, over the past three years, the United States’ campaign against Huawei has cost the company billions of dollars in lost revenue. But new information has come to light that only darkens Huawei’s notorious reputation.

Enabling Mass Imprisonment

In recent articles, Forbes identifies Huawei as playing an integral role in China’s widespread and pervasive Orwellian surveillance state apparatus. In a November exposition, Forbes contributor Zak Dorfman explains how the company’s advanced surveillance and tracking technology is a critical enabler of the CCP’s oppression, imprisonment, and torture of millions of Uyghurs in the western province of Xinjiang:

“The far-reaching use of [Huawei] technology to underpin all of this is a consistent theme throughout. This includes AI-based surveillance, intrusive data collection and smartphone and general communications monitoring. Any missteps seemingly run the risk of internment. And once detained, only modified thinking and behaviors seem likely to secure a person’s release.”

Furthermore, the article cites the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which published the China Cables, exposes intercepted information about operations manuals and status reports for Xinjiang’s surveillance ecosystem and detention camps. The policies and procedures contained in the manuals are shown to have been personally approved by Xinjiang’s security authority.

These facts have been confirmed by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), which led its own investigation into the China Cables claims. The ASPI’s report concluded that, “Huawei’s work in Xinjiang is extensive and includes working directly with the Chinese Government’s public security bureaus in the region. … Huawei’s Xinjiang activities should be taken into consideration during debates about Huawei and 5G technologies.”

Of course, Huawei doesn’t deny that its technology is used by others in Xinjiang, but insists that the company has no say in how it’s used. It also denies any involvement in supporting and enhancing the CCP’s campaign against China’s Uyghur population, the largest mass incarceration of any population since World War II, or any other population.

But the ASPI report contradicts Huawei’s assertions, concluding that, “Huawei’s work in Xinjiang is extensive and includes working directly with the Chinese Government’s public security bureaus in the region.”

The reality is that within China, Huawei surveillance and monitoring technologies are the instruments of the CCP’s comprehensive police state. They also enable and support the CCP’s persecution, imprisonment, and reeducation policy toward the Uyghur population.

China as Big Brother to the World?

Quite regrettably, Huawei surveillance and monitoring technologies aren’t limited to China and the Party. As the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) noted in its November 2019 report, Huawei is instrumental in China’s policy of “exporting authoritarianism.”

Huawei’s comprehensive municipal surveillance technology and procedures bundle is packaged with the soft marketing hook of “safe city” technology, a euphemism that hides the technology’s true purpose of allowing the state to surveil, and efficiently control and oppress its citizens.

And much of the world is following China’s lead, particularly in Asia and Africa. These nations tend to be much less free and open than Western societies and fall into either poor or middle-income wealth brackets.

Still, the trend of these countries using Huawei’s technology to help them create their very own “safe and smarter societies” is a disturbing one, as the United Nations predicts that 90 percent of the world population growth will be occurring in Asia and Africa. What’s more, Huawei technologies will undoubtedly inform Beijing, as well as the host country users.

As of April of 2019, more than 230 cities were using Huawei “safe city” surveillance technology, mostly in Central Asia and Africa, but some in Latin America and other places as well. Assuming that China is accessing the data of these cities and countries, it puts Beijing in a powerful position as Orwell’s “Big Brother” for much of the world.

The implications are difficult to overstate.

The growth and expansion of Huawei’s “safe city” technology across the world threaten the spread and even continuation of Western liberal and democratic ideals, and aids in the spread of authoritarianism. The technology gives dictators and non-democratic states, indeed, China itself, the ability to identify and detain democratic movements and leaders before they can become effective liberalizing factors in Huawei client states, wherever they may be.

China’s goal, of course, is to remove American influence in the world and remake it in its own totalitarian image. It could possibly succeed. The liberal ideals of Western civilization will quickly fade into obscurity if the world never hears about them.

James R. Gorrie is the author of “The China Crisis” (Wiley, 2013) and writes on his blog, He is based in Southern California.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.