The Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has tested artificial intelligence tools that could classify minorities of Uyghur citizens. The AI will then warn the authorities of the state.
The Washington Post presented a company’s internal document signed by Huawei officials that revealed it was collaborating back in 2018 with a startup named Megvii for facial recognition. It was to test a camera system operated by AI with facial recognition feature and the device could predict the race, age, and other factors of an individual.
Once it recognizes an Uyghur, Huawei’s Megvii feature will set off an alarm. Uyghurs are a minority group, the majority of which are Muslims. They have been prosecuted and the Chinese government is putting them in camps.
The internal company paper was posted on Huawei’s website and was deleted immediately after a comment on the AI was demanded by The Washington Post and the research group IPVM.
The Megvii camera system can take images of people in real-time and replay video footage when an Uyghur-owned face is found.
Huawei spokesman Glenn Schloss told said that the plan was a prototype and that it had not yet been used. He added that custom algorithms or even software are not supported by Huawei.
Human Right’s Stance vs. Current Situation
The situation raises concerns about how global leaders can use Huawei’s AI to execute inhumane practices and power their personal agendas.
The acts of China against minorities have been condemned by foreign human rights groups, democratic nations, and even Pope Francis. In their campaign to suppress minority groups, the human rights groups called on Huawei to support China and other countries.
In July 2020, the United Kingdom announced that they are considering sanctioning China because of the gross abuses of human rights occurring in the camps.
Huawei’s Megvii was also one of the few Chinese businesses to be sanctioned back in 2019 by the US Department of Commerce for its contribution to the prosecution of Uyghurs and other minorities in the world by China.
The investigation of Uyghurs in China
Since 2016, more than 1 million Uyghurs have been detained by China in internment camps, which the Chinese government also calls re-education camps.
Uyghurs are native to Xinjiang, China, which in the northwest part of the country is an autonomous region. Camp officials are said to be pressuring the Uyghurs to give up their identity and fully follow Chinese traditions, such as learning how to speak Mandarin.
The alleged inhumane practices in the camps have spread all over the world, as allegations of torture, forced labor, abuse, and prison medical experiments have been published, all while teaching Chinese propaganda. The Chinese government has also been accused of sterilizing Uyghur women violently.
Meanwhile, by asserting that Uyghurs are terrorists and religious extremists, the Chinese authorities justified their actions. The government has used surveillance techniques, including facial recognition feature, to monitor the minority community. This involves installing thousands of cameras, including Huawei’s AI feature to identify them and spy on them through their phones in Xinjiang.