New Evidence Emerges of Chinese Company’s Role in Suppressing Uyghurs: Tech Firm

November 9, 2020 Updated: November 9, 2020

Following the U.S. commerce department’s decision to blacklist Chinese surveillance equipment maker Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. due to their role in human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, an information company in the United States discovered new evidence that the company participated in Chinese authorities’ persecution of ethnic minorities.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based video surveillance information company IPVM released a report on Nov. 5, stating that they had seen the words “EM_NATION_TYPE_UYGUR” in the code of a product downloaded from Dahua Technology’s website.

It further analyzed that this means Dahua’s video surveillance software has a facial recognition function specifically designed to detect the facial features of Uyghur people, whose Eurasian features are distinctive from the Han majority Chinese. About 11 million Uyghurs, most of whom practice Islam, live in the Xinjiang area.

IPVM later contacted Dahua Technology, which declined to comment on this matter. The IPVM report stated that the relevant information on Dahua’s website was deleted about 30 minutes after IPVM contacted the firm.

Dahua Technology, headquartered in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, is one of China’s largest artificial intelligence companies. Its share of the global video surveillance equipment and service market is the second in the world, according to Chinese state media Global Times, with annual revenue of $3.7 billion. The company has 16,000 employees. It is also designated a “national innovative pilot enterprise”  by the Chinese central government.

Surveillance cameras in Hangzhou, in east China’s Zhejiang Province on May 29, 2019. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Zhejiang Dahua participated in the construction of China’s high-tech mass surveillance project. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to design facial recognition software based on the facial features of Uyghurs, helping public security to complete all-round control of the minority ethnicity. Wherever Uyghurs traveled, they will be quickly located by the police, and then detained or deported back to Xinjiang, according to IPVM’s research.

The firm also discovered that more than a dozen public security bureaus in China had installed such software. On its website, the company touts the fact that its video surveillance technology and its facial recognition software were designed for the Chinese regime’s “Skynet” project, a plan to blanket urban areas with millions of surveillance cameras.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported earlier this year that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) expects to establish more than 500 so-called “smart cities” in China. These cities will use surveillance technology, equip millions of cameras in public places, and use facial recognition technology to monitor residents with products from Chinese state-backed AI companies, such as Dahua and Tencent.

In October 2019, the U.S. commerce department added Dahua to its entity list, prohibiting it from conducting business with U.S. companies. The department said the “entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

Also on the blacklist were Dahua’s domestic competitors such as Hikvision, iFLYTEK, Megvii Technology, Shangtang Technology, Yitu Technology, Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co., and Yixin Technology Co. In July this year, the commerce department added 11 more Chinese companies to the list.