AI emotion-detection software tested on Uyghurs

The police state becomes even more sophisticated:

A camera system that uses AI and facial recognition intended to reveal states of emotion has been tested on Uyghurs in Xinjiang, the BBC has been told.

A software engineer claimed to have installed such systems in police stations in the province.

A human rights advocate who was shown the evidence described it as shocking.

The Chinese embassy in London has not responded directly to the claims but says political and social rights in all ethnic groups are guaranteed.

Xinjiang is home to 12 million ethnic minority Uyghurs, most of whom are Muslim.

Citizens in the province are under daily surveillance. The area is also home to highly controversial “re-education centres”, called high security detention camps by human rights groups, where it is estimated that more than a million people have been held. 

Beijing has always argued that surveillance is necessary in the region because it says separatists who want to set up their own state have killed hundreds of people in terror attacks.

The software engineer agreed to talk to the BBC’s Panorama programme under condition of anonymity, because he fears for his safety. The company he worked for is also not being revealed. 

But he showed Panorama five photographs of Uyghur detainees who he claimed had had the emotion recognition system tested on them.

Pie-chart
image captionData from the system purports to indicate a person’s state of mind, with red suggesting a negative or anxious state of mind

“The Chinese government use Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories,” he said.

And he outlined his role in installing the cameras in police stations in the province: “We placed the emotion detection camera 3m from the subject. It is similar to a lie detector but far more advanced technology.”

He said officers used “restraint chairs” which are widely installed in police stations across China.

“Your wrists are locked in place by metal restraints, and [the] same applies to your ankles.”

He provided evidence of how the AI system is trained to detect and analyse even minute changes in facial expressions and skin pores.

According to his claims, the software creates a pie chart, with the red segment representing a negative or anxious state of mind.

He claimed the software was intended for “pre-judgement without any credible evidence”.

The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to questions about the use of emotional recognition software in the province but said: “The political, economic, and social rights and freedom of religious belief in all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are fully guaranteed.

“People live in harmony regardless of their ethnic backgrounds and enjoy a stable and peaceful life with no restriction to personal freedom.”

The evidence was shown to Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch.

“It is shocking material. It’s not just that people are being reduced to a pie chart, it’s people who are in highly coercive circumstances, under enormous pressure, being understandably nervous and that’s taken as an indication of guilt, and I think, that’s deeply problematic.”

Suspicious behaviour

According to Darren Byler, from the University of Colorado, Uyghurs routinely have to provide DNA samples to local officials, undergo digital scans and most have to download a government phone app, which gathers data including contact lists and text messages.

“Uyghur life is now about generating data,” he said.

“Everyone knows that the smartphone is something you have to carry with you, and if you don’t carry it you can be detained, they know that you’re being tracked by it. And they feel like there’s no escape,” he said.

Most of the data is fed into a computer system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform, which Human Rights Watch claims flags up supposedly suspicious behaviour.

“The system is gathering information about dozens of different kinds of perfectly legal behaviours including things like whether people were going out the back door instead of the front door, whether they were putting gas in a car that didn’t belong to them,” said Ms Richardson.

“Authorities now place QR codes outside the doors of people’s homes so that they can easily know who’s supposed to be there and who’s not.”

Orwellian?

There has long been debate about how closely tied Chinese technology firms are to the state. US-based research group IPVM claims to have uncovered evidence in patents filed by such companies that suggest facial recognition products were specifically designed to identify Uyghur people.

A patent filed in July 2018 by Huawei and the China Academy of Sciences describes a face recognition product that is capable of identifying people on the basis of their ethnicity.

Huawei said in response that it did “not condone the use of technology to discriminate or oppress members of any community” and that it was “independent of government” wherever it operated.

The group has also found a document which appears to suggest the firm was developing technology for a so-called One Person, One File system.

“For each person the government would store their personal information, their political activities, relationships… anything that might give you insight into how that person would behave and what kind of a threat they might pose,” said IPVM’s Conor Healy.

“It makes any kind of dissidence potentially impossible and creates true predictability for the government in the behaviour of their citizens. I don’t think that [George] Orwell would ever have imagined that a government could be capable of this kind of analysis.”

Huawei did not specifically address questions about its involvement in developing technology for the One Person, One File system but said: “Huawei opposes discrimination of all types, including the use of technology to carry out ethnic discrimination. 

“As a privately-held company, Huawei is independent of government wherever we operate. We do not condone the use of technology to discriminate against or oppress members of any community.”

The Chinese embassy in London said it had “no knowledge” of these programmes.

IPVM also claimed to have found marketing material from Chinese firm Hikvision advertising a Uyghur-detecting AI camera, and a patent for software developed by Dahua, another tech giant, which could also identify Uyghurs.

Dahua said its patent referred to all 56 recognised ethnicities in China and did not deliberately target any one of them.

It added that it provided “products and services that aim to help keep people safe” and complied “with the laws and regulations of every market” in which it operates, including the UK.

Hikvision said the details on its website were incorrect and “uploaded online without appropriate review”, adding that it did not sell or have in its product range “a minority recognition function or analytics technology”.

Dr Lan Xue, chairman of China’s National committee on AI governance, said he was not aware of the patents.

“Outside China there are a lot of those sorts of charges. Many are not accurate and not true,” he told the BBC.

“I think that the Xinjiang local government had the responsibility to really protect the Xinjiang people… if technology is used in those contexts, that’s quite understandable,” he said.

The UK’s Chinese embassy had a more robust defence, telling the BBC: “There is no so-called facial recognition technology featuring Uyghur analytics whatsoever.”

Daily surveillance

China is estimated to be home to half of the world’s almost 800 million surveillance cameras.

It also has a large number of smart cities, such as Chongqing, where AI is built into the foundations of the urban environment.

Chongqing-based investigative journalist Hu Liu told Panorama of his own experience: “Once you leave home and step into the lift, you are captured by a camera. There are cameras everywhere.”

“When I leave home to go somewhere, I call a taxi, the taxi company uploads the data to the government. I may then go to a cafe to meet a few friends and the authorities know my location through the camera in the cafe.

“There have been occasions when I have met some friends and soon after someone from the government contacts me. They warned me, ‘Don’t see that person, don’t do this and that.’

“With artificial intelligence we have nowhere to hide,” he said.

Source: http://click.revue.email/ss/c/XN2t88CAhalHja1RClwc6qsMgajWENlC9NZ1PWkAxfUzsgvZ2xjHTcAWJ2cLn-CdGZ0w_l7nnLcmMcVvmrkgMPKVaGyxQ7qZd71KSFybXPcUwFWKhwn0TtRR5hrfXMiGHmYN4Eb9iUB3URfKHjAcvp13foBYRb9l4moXoJKWITWllHNy8OXBOqTw4hzOVQ2FIU2CUmVhsxPu4XO74CTZz6IKyaJMYsCaauAXVlq0oZRL_b8NE62A-QYF2YbBNLbZZfopy2X10K3tSngIuQL5-ttL1jFJoCUfFfhj8u3XdxY/3ca/RUjBl06WSoimqdFfA2J_Bw/h41/p167_E3Thw2-rkj2w7e66SMP4kkoUGB6qZwW0QaBUXU

Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Of note. Right call:

Groups alleging human-rights abuses against minorities in China are calling for a full-blown boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, a move likely to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors and sports federations.

A coalition representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others issued a statement Monday calling for the boycott, eschewing lesser measures that had been floated like “diplomatic boycotts” and further negotiations with the IOC or China.

“The time for talking with the IOC is over,” Lhadon Tethong of the Tibet Action Institute said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. “This cannot be games as usual or business as usual; not for the IOC and not for the international community.”

The Beijing Games are set to open on Feb. 4, 2022, just six months after the postponed Summer Olympics in Tokyo are to end.

Rights groups have met several times in the last year with the IOC, asking that the games be removed from China. A key member in those talks was Zumretay Arkin of the World Uyghur Congress.

Tethong, herself, was detained and deported from China in 2007 — a year before the Beijing Summer Olympics — for leading a campaign for Tibet.

“The situation where we are now is demonstrably worse that it was then,” Tethong said, pointing out that the IOC said the 2008 Olympics would improve human rights in China. “If the games go ahead, then Beijing gets the international seal of approval for what they are doing.”

The push for a boycott comes a day before a joint hearing in the U.S. Congress focusing on the Beijing Olympics and China’s human-rights record, and just days after the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said boycotts are ineffective and only hurt athletes.

“People have worked to engage with the IOC in good faith to have them understand the issues directly from the mouths of those most impacted — the Uyghurs at the top of that list and the Tibetans and others,” Tethong said. “It’s clear the IOC is completely uninterested in what the real impacts on the ground for people are.”

The IOC has repeatedly said it must be “neutral” and stay out of politics. The Switzerland-based body is essentially a sports business, deriving about 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, and 18% more from sponsors. It also has observer status at the United Nations.

“We are not a super-world government,” IOC President Thomas Bach said recently.

China’s foreign ministry has criticized “the politicization of sports” and has said any boycott is “doomed to failure.” China has denied accusations of genocide against the Uyghur people.

A recent U.S. State Department report stated explicitly that “genocide and crimes against humanity” have taken place in the past year against Muslim Uyghurs and other minorities in the western region of Xinjiang.

Tethong said she knows some athletes may be opposed. But she said others, who gained traction from Black Lives Matter movement, may become allies. She acknowledged this as a “gloves-off” moment.

“There are obviously a lot of people who are concerned about the athletes and their lifelong work,” Tethong said. “But in the end it’s the IOC that has put them in this position and should be held accountable.”

American skier Mikaela Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, spelled out the dilemma for athletes in a recent interview on CNN.

“You certainly don’t want to be put in the position of having to choose between human rights like morality versus being able to do your job,” she said.

Tethong suggested coalition members might lobby the IOC’s top 15 sponsors, American network NBC, which generates about 40% of all IOC revenue, sports federations, civil society groups “and anyone that will listen.”

Activists have already singled out IOC sponsor Airbnb for attention.

“First is the moral question,” Tethong said. “Is it OK to host an international goodwill sporting event such as the Olympic Games while the host nation is committing genocide just beyond the stands?”

In meetings with the IOC, activists say they have asked to see documents in which China has given “assurances” about human rights conditions. Activists say the IOC has not produced the documents.

The IOC included human rights requirements several years ago in the host city contract for the 2024 Paris Olympics, but it did not include those guidelines — the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights — for Beijing. Paris is the first Olympics to contain the standards, long pushed for by human rights groups.

Last week, human rights groups and Western nations led by the United States, Britain and Germany accused China of massive crimes against the Uyghur minority and demanded unimpeded access for U.N. experts.

At the meeting, Britain’s U.N. Ambassador, Barbara Woodward, called the situation in Xinjiang “one of the worst human rights crises of our time.”

“The evidence points to a program of repression of specific ethnic groups,” Woodward said. “Expressions of religion have been criminalized and Uyghur language and culture are discriminated against systematically and at scale.”

Source: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births in Xinjiang

Good long and disturbing read. But given all the accounts of Chinese government repression, not all that surprising. Time for more public shaming of the Chinese government, no longer extending speaking invitations to Chinese diplomats and boycotting the 2022 Beijing winter Olympics:

When the government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials in Xinjiang. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisisfrom a declining birthrate. But in the far western region of Xinjiang, they are forcing them to have fewer, as they tighten their grip on Muslim ethnic minorities.

It is part of a vast and repressive social re-engineering campaign by a Communist Party determined to eliminate any perceived challenge to its rule, in this case, ethnic separatism. Over the past few years, the party, under its top leader, Xi Jinping, has moved aggressively to subdue Uyghurs and other Central Asian minorities in Xinjiang, putting hundreds of thousands into internment camps and prisons. The authorities have placed the region under tight surveillance, sent residents to work in factoriesand placed children in boarding schools.

By targeting Muslim women, the authorities are going even further, attempting to orchestrate a demographic shift that will affect the population for generations. Birthrates in the region have already plunged in recent years, as the use of invasive birth control procedures has risen, findings that were previously documented by a researcher, Adrian Zenz, with The Associated Press.

While the authorities have said the procedures are voluntary, interviews with more than a dozen Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim women and men from Xinjiang, as well as a review of official statistics, government notices and reports in the state-run media, depict a coercive effort by the Chinese Communist Party to control the community’s reproductive rights. The authorities pressured women to use IUDs or get sterilized. As they recuperated at home, government officials were sent to live with them to watch for signs of discontent; one woman described having to endure her minder’s groping.

If they had too many children or refused contraceptive procedures, they faced steep fines or, worse, detention in an internment camp. In the camps, the women were at risk of even more abuse. Some former detainees say they were made to take drugs that stopped their menstrual cycles. One woman said she had been raped in a camp.

To rights advocates and Western officials, the government’s repression in Xinjiang is tantamount to crimes against humanityand genocide, in large part because of the efforts to stem the population growth of Muslim minorities. The Trump administration in January was the first government to declare the crackdown a genocide, with reproductive oppression as a leading reason; the Biden administration affirmed the label in March.

Ms. Sedik’s experience, reported in The Guardian and elsewhere, helped form the basis for the decision by the United States government. “It was one of the most detailed and compelling first-person accounts we had,” said Kelley E. Currie, a former United States ambassador who was involved in the government’s discussions. “It helped to put a face on the horrifying statistics we were seeing.”

Beijing has accused its critics of pushing an anti-China agenda. 

The recent declines in the region’s birthrates, the government has said, were the result of the authorities’ fully enforcing longstanding birth restrictions. The sterilizations and contraceptive procedures, it said, freed women from backward attitudes about procreation and religion.

“Whether to have birth control or what contraceptive method they choose are completely their own wishes,” Xu Guixiang, a Xinjiang government spokesman, said at a news conference in March. “No one nor any agency shall interfere.”

To women in Xinjiang, the orders from the government were clear: They didn’t have a choice.

Last year, a community worker in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Ms. Sedik had lived, sent messages saying women between 18 and 59 had to submit to pregnancy and birth control inspections.

“If you fight with us at the door and if you refuse to cooperate with us, you will be taken to the police station,” the worker wrote, according to screenshots of the WeChat messages that Ms. Sedik shared with The Times.

“Do not gamble with your life,” one message read, “don’t even try.”

All her life, Ms. Sedik, an ethnic Uzbek, had thought of herself as a model citizen.

After she graduated from college, she married and threw herself into her work, teaching Chinese to Uyghur elementary school students. Mindful of the rules, Ms. Sedik didn’t get pregnant until she had gotten approval from her employer. She had only one child, a daughter, in 1993.

Ms. Sedik could have had two children. The rules at the time allowed ethnic minorities to have slightly bigger families than those of the majority Han Chinese ethnic group, particularly in the countryside. The government even awarded Ms. Sedik a certificate of honor for staying within the limits.

Then, in 2017, everything changed.

As the government corralled Uyghurs and Kazakhs into mass internment camps, it moved in tandem to ramp up enforcement of birth controls. Sterilization rates in Xinjiang surged by almost sixfold from 2015 to 2018, to just over 60,000 procedures, even as they plummeted around the country, according to calculations by Mr. Zenz.

The campaign in Xinjiang is at odds with a broader push by the government since 2015 to encourage births, including by providing tax subsidies and free IUD removals. But from 2015 to 2018, Xinjiang’s share of the country’s total new IUD insertions increased, even as use of the devices fell nationwide.

The contraception campaign appeared to work.

Birthrates in minority-dominated counties in the region plummeted from 2015 to 2018, based on Mr. Zenz’s calculations. Several of these counties have stopped publishing population data, but Mr. Zenz calculated that the birthrates in minority areas probably continued to fall in 2019 by just over 50 percent from 2018, based on figures from other counties.

The sharp drop in birthrates in the region was “shocking” and clearly in part a result of the campaign to tighten enforcement of birth control policies, said Wang Feng, a professor of sociology and expert in Chinese population policies at University of California, Irvine. But other factors could include a fall in the number of women of childbearing age, later marriages and postponed births, he said.

As the government pushes back against growing criticism, it has withheld some key statistics, including annually published county-level data on birthrates and birth control use for 2019. Other official data for the region as a whole showed a steep drop in IUD insertions and sterilizations that year, though the number of sterilizations was still mostly higher than before the campaign began.

In Beijing’s depiction, the campaign is a victory for the region’s Muslim women.

“In the process of deradicalization, some women’s minds have also been liberated,” a January report by a Xinjiang government research center read. “They have avoided the pain of being trapped by extremism and being turned into reproductive tools.”

Women like Ms. Sedik, who had obeyed the rules, were not spared. After the IUD procedure, Ms. Sedik suffered from heavy bleeding and headaches. She later had the device secretly removed, then reinserted. In 2019, she decided to be sterilized.

“The government had become so strict, and I could no longer take the IUD,’” said Ms. Sedik, who now lives in the Netherlands after fleeing China in 2019. “I lost all hope in myself.”

The penalties for not obeying the government were steep. A Han Chinese woman who violated the birth regulations would face a fine, while a Uyghur or Kazakh woman wouldface possible detention.

When Gulnar Omirzakh had her third child in 2015, officials in her northern village registered the birth. But three years later, they said she had violated birth limits and owed $2,700 in fines.

Officials said they would detain Ms. Omirzakh and her two daughters if she did not pay.

She borrowed money from her relatives. Later, she fled to Kazakhstan.

“The women of Xinjiang are in danger,” Ms. Omirzakh said in a telephone interview. “The government wants to replace our people.”

The threat of detention was real.

Three women told The Times they had met other detainees in internment camps who had been locked up for violating birth restrictions.

Dina Nurdybay, a Kazakh woman, said she helped one woman write a letter to the authorities in which she blamed herself for being ignorant and having too many children.

Such accounts are corroborated by a 137-page government document leaked last year from Karakax County, in southwestern Xinjiang, which revealed that one of the most common reasons cited for detention was violating birth planning policies.

Those who refused to terminate illegal pregnancies or pay fines would be referred to the internment camps, according to one government notice from a county in Ili, unearthed by Mr. Zenz, the researcher.

Once women disappeared into the region’s internment camps — facilities operated under secrecy — many were subjected to interrogations. For some, the ordeal was worse.

Tursunay Ziyawudun was detained in a camp in Ili Prefecture for 10 months for traveling to Kazakhstan. She said that on three occasions, she was taken to a dark cell where two to three masked men raped her and used electric batons to forcibly penetrate her. 

“You become their toy,” Ms. Ziyawudun said in a telephone interview from the United States, where she now lives, as she broke down sobbing. “You just want to die at the time, but unfortunately you don’t.”

Gulbahar Jalilova, the third former detainee, said in an interview that she had been beaten in a camp and that a guard exposed himself during an interrogation and wanted her to perform oral sex.

The three former detainees, along with two others who spoke to The Times, also described being regularly forced to take unidentified pills or receive injections of medication that caused nausea and fatigue. Eventually, a few of them said, they stopped menstruating.

The former detainees’ accounts could not be independently verified because tight restrictions in Xinjiang make unfettered access to the camps impossible. The Chinese government has forcefully denied all allegations of abuse in the facilities.

“The sexual assault and torture cannot exist,” said Mr. Xu, the regional spokesman, at a news briefing in February.

Beijing has sought to undermine the credibility of the women who have spoken out, accusing them of lying and of poor morals, all while claiming to be a champion of women’s rights.

Even in their homes, the women did not feel safe. Uninvited Chinese Communist Party cadres would show up and had to be let in. 

The party sends out more than a million workers to regularly visit, and sometimes stay in, the homes of Muslims, as part of a campaign called “Pair Up and Become Family.” To many Uyghurs, the cadres were little different from spies.

The cadres were tasked with reporting on whether the families they visited showed signs of “extremist behavior.” For women, this included any resentment they might have felt about state-mandated contraceptive procedures.

When the party cadres came to stay in 2018, Zumret Dawut had just been forcibly sterilized.

Four Han cadres visited her in Urumqi, bringing yogurt and eggs to help with the recovery, she recalled. They were also armed with questions: Did she have any issues with the sterilization operation? Was she dissatisfied with the government’s policy?

“I was so scared that if I said the wrong thing they would send me back to the camps,” said Ms. Dawut, a mother of three. “So I just told them, ‘We are all Chinese people and we have to do what the Chinese law says.’”

But the officials’ unwelcome gaze settled also on Ms. Dawut’s 11-year-old daughter, she said. One cadre, a 19-year-old man who was assigned to watch the child, would sometimes call Ms. Dawut and suggest taking her daughter to his home. She was able to rebuff him with excuses that the child was sick, she said.

Other women reported having to fend off advances even in the company of their husbands.

Ms. Sedik, the Uzbek teacher, was still recovering from a sterilization procedure when her “relative” — her husband’s boss — showed up.

She was expected to cook, clean and entertain him even though she was in pain from the operation. Worse, he would ask to hold her hand or to kiss and hug her, she said.

Mostly, Ms. Sedik agreed to his requests, terrified that if she refused, he would tell the government that she was an extremist. She rejected him only once: when he asked to sleep with her.

It went on like this every month or so for two years — until she left the country.

“He would say, ‘Don’t you like me? Don’t you love me?’” she recalled. “‘If you refuse me, you are refusing the government.’”

“I felt so humiliated, oppressed and angry,” she said. “But there was nothing I could do.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/10/world/asia/china-xinjiang-women-births.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

US-based academic faces lawsuit for research into Uighurs

Of note:

Companies in China’s Xinjiang province are said to have filed a domestic civil lawsuit against a high-profile United States-based academic whose research into the treatment of China’s Turkic minority Uighur population, including alleged forced labour, has angered the Chinese authorities. 

The reported lawsuit, which the Chinese government has said it supports, appears to be a new way to attempt to silence scholars and critics abroad, experts said.

Chinese official media said this week “a number of enterprises and individuals” in Xinjiang “have directed lawyers to sue German national Adrian Zenz”, the official Global Times newspaper and China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday without naming the companies or individuals. 

The companies and individuals are said to have filed a civil lawsuit with a local court in Xinjiang, demanding that Zenz apologise, restore their reputation and compensate them for their losses.

“Local people said that Zenz spread ‘forced labour’ and other rumours related to Xinjiang, which damaged their reputation and caused them to suffer economic losses,” official media said. 

Zenz, formerly from the European School of Culture and Theology in Korntal in Germany but now a senior fellow in China studies at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the US, and other academics and journalists have written several hard-hitting reports since 2018 based on satellite imagery and official Chinese documents on the treatment of Uighurs, including documenting rights violations and the detention of up to a million Uighurs in huge camps in Xinjiang.

Mass internments in Xinjiang are believed to have begun in 2017. The Chinese government has repeatedly denied such reports, referring to the camps as “re-education centres”.

Sheena Greitens, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who has researched censorship and self-censorship among China academics at overseas universities, said “a lawsuit vs a researcher in a Chinese court is a new tactic” in China’s policing of the boundaries of academic research. 

Greitens said via Twitter that she was interested in who claims damages and how, “but [the] bigger issue is a potential deterrent effect on academic research”.

Forced labour

More than 570,000 Uighurs have been pressed into forced labour in Chinese cotton fields, which are a major supplier to the Western textiles industry, according to a research by Zenz published in December by the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Global Policy. Zenz said his research was based on Chinese official documents available online.

“Anybody who cares or who claims to have anything ethical in their business and supply chains has to divest,” Zenz said in December, referring to the textile industry’s sourcing of Xinjiang cotton. Xinjiang produces a third of China’s cotton.  

Zenz also published a report last week based on previously untranslated documents in Chinese including the so-called Nankai Report, written in 2019 by three academics at Nankai University’s China Institute of Wealth and Economics, including the institute’s dean. 

The Nankai Report is unprecedented in its details, according to Zenz, and implicitly reveals the impact of state coercion from the Nankai researchers’ own field work and surveys. The report talks about security guards accompanying the Uighur labourers, the labour recruitment quota set by the government, and other details in one document.

“The authors’ access to government information and relevant sites was privileged, far exceeding that which could be expected by regular academics,” Zenz noted. Zenz said his assessment on forced labour was supplemented by other reports from Chinese academics and former senior government officials.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative on 1 March said US President Joe Biden’s administration had made it a top priority to address the abuses of China’s forced labour programme targeting Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. 

The previous US administration of former president Donald Trump imposed sanctions on Chinese companies acquiring US technology, saying they were complicit in human rights violations against Uighurs in Xinjiang. Other sanctions were imposed on Chinese government officials and a major government department in Xinjiang. 

Chinese government supports legal action

In a 9 March press conference, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, indicated that the government supported the private legal action against Zenz. 

“Many companies and residents in Xinjiang suffered heavy economic losses after Zenz’s rumour of ‘forced labour’ came out of nowhere,” Zhao said, describing Zenz’s reports as “malicious smearing tactics”. China’s official media have frequently sought to discredit Zenz as a Christian “religious extremist” and “pseudo-researcher”.

“Their decision to seek legal redress against Zenz reflects a stronger awareness among the Chinese citizens to safeguard their rights through the law. We support this,” Zhao added. 

Zenz has said it “seems that the lawsuit threat is part of a well-prepared propaganda offensive”. 

He told the Washington Post newspaper this week: “It is the first admission that they really are suffering major economic losses” in China, adding that the lawsuit against him in China shows that US sanctions are beginning to bite.

Jurisdiction and arbitrary detention

Donald Clarke, a law professor specialising in Chinese law at the George Washington University Law School in the US, said in a blog post that jurisdiction for the lawsuit would first have to be established for any case involving Zenz, a foreigner living outside China with no connection to China. 

Since the lawsuit reportedly seeks damages, arguably it could only apply to Zenz’s assets in China, and he has none. But Clarke also raised important issues of arbitrary detention which could affect other academics. 

“People with their assets in the US do not, I think, need to be seriously concerned about this kind of lawsuit. They do, of course, need to be concerned about going to China, because they can be prevented from leaving the country until they pay off the judgment. But if they have already drawn the attention of the Chinese authorities to this extent, they shouldn’t be going in the first place, regardless of whether someone has sued them.

“Moreover, at least in this kind of case they’ll know they’re a target. You can be kept from leaving the country even before a judgment issues against you, merely because you have been sued. You might not even have received notice; the first time you find out is when you show up at the airport and can’t get on your plane.”

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20210310133012408

Human rights adviser presses Trudeau to call out China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide

Right call:

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and a leading voice on human rights, is urging Justin Trudeau to take steps to recognize that China is conducting acts of genocide against its Muslim minority.

Mr. Cotler said the federal government could either ask the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on whether China is committing genocide or have Parliament adopt a resolution on the issue.

MPs are preparing to vote Monday on a Conservative motion to recognize China’s conduct as genocide. The NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party have indicated that they would support the motion, which says Beijing’s actions contravene the UN Genocide Convention.

The Prime Minister, who said this week that he was reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide and that the matter required more study, recently appointed Mr. Cotler as his special adviser for Holocaust remembrance and combatting anti-Semitism.

The Montreal lawyer said he’s confident that what is taking place in China meets the test of genocide.

“I have looked at all the evidence and I have no doubt that, in fact, there are mass atrocities that are constitutive to acts of genocide under the Genocide Convention,” Mr. Cotler said in an interview.

The Biden and Trump administrations have both said Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang region meet a credible definition of “genocide.” Allegations include mass incarceration, destruction of religious sites, forced labour, forced sterilization and other forms of population control, as well as torture.

Mr. Cotler said forced sterilizations and abortions and holding more than one million Uyghurs in what he called “concentration camps” violate the Convention.

“This constitutes the largest detention of a minority since the Holocaust … and you have witnesses testifying about forced enslavement, torture, mass rape, disappearances, murder,” he said.

A growing body of evidence from human-rights monitors, Western media outlets and testimony from Uyghur survivors themselves has documented China’s actions.

Media reports have detailed how China has forced intrauterine devices, sterilization and even abortion on hundreds of thousands in Xinjiang. Birth rates in Hotan and Kashgar, Uyghur-majority areas of Xinjiang, fell more than 60 per cent between 2015 and 2018, an Associated Press report says.

Beijing defends its conduct by saying that it’s trying to stamp out extremism and calls the camps re-education centres.

The Conservative motion would not be the first statement from Parliament on the issue. In October, a House of Commons subcommittee, dominated by Liberal MPs, also labelled Beijing’s conduct in Xinjiang as genocide.

Arif Virani, the parliamentary secretary to Justice Minister and Attorney-General David Lametti, later told the Commons that he believed “it is genocide that appears to be taking place today in China.”

The federal government has previously said it wants an independent investigation into China’s treatment of the Uyghurs. And Mr. Trudeau said earlier this week that Canada would like to be part of such an investigation. Human-rights advocates have pointed out that it’s extremely unlikely China would ever allow it.

When asked if he is reluctant to describe China’s conduct as genocide in case it leads to repercussions for jailed Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, Mr. Trudeau said Monday that his primary concern is making sure the term genocide is not misused.

“There is no question there have been tremendous human-rights abuses reported coming out of Xinjiang, and we are extremely concerned about that.”

But he said that when it comes to calling it genocide, “we need to ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in the process before a determination like that is made.”

Mr. Cotler said he knows the Prime Minister is worried about the fate of the two Michaels but added that a parliamentary determination of genocide would allow “the government to say they are responding to the will of Parliament, which is reflective and representative of the will of the people … or they can go the Supreme Court route.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party Leader Annamie Paul have said they believe Beijing is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. Ms. Paul has urged Ottawa to consider diplomatic and economic sanctions against China.

The Conservatives have said that other consequences should follow a recognition of genocide, and they have already urged the government to press Olympic organizers to move the 2022 Winter Games out of Beijing. The Conservative motion to be voted on Monday was amended during debate Thursday to also urge the relocation of the Games from Beijing.

Paul Evans, the HSBC Chair in Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, said Canada is “not on strong moral and political ground” to lead on the issue of genocide, given this country’s painful history of residential schools for Indigenous children.

“There do appear to be parallels between our residential-school history and what Beijing is attempting to do with some of the Uyghur population in Xinjiang,” he said.

“We would be on a firmer ground, and more likely to attract others to the cause, if we labelled Chinese actions in Xinjiang as ‘cultural genocide,’ a horror we are very familiar with in our own story.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeaus-holocaust-adviser-says-canada-must-recognize-chinas-actions/

Huawei patent mentions use of Uighur-spotting tech

Not that surprising…

A Huawei patent has been brought to light for a system that identifies people who appear to be of Uighur origin among images of pedestrians.

The filing is one of several of its kind involving leading Chinese technology companies, discovered by a US research company and shared with BBC News.

Huawei had previously said none of its technologies was designed to identify ethnic groups.

It now plans to alter the patent.

Forced-labour camps

The company indicated this would involve asking the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) – the country’s patent authority – for permission to delete the reference to Uighurs in the Chinese-language document.

Uighur people belong to a mostly Muslim ethnic group that lives mainly in Xinjiang province, in north-western China.

Government authorities are accused of using high-tech surveillance against them and detaining many in forced-labour camps, where children are sometimes separated from their parents.

Beijing says the camps offer voluntary education and training.

“One technical requirement of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s video-surveillance networks is the detection of ethnicity – particularly of Uighurs,” said Maya Wang, from Human Rights Watch.

“While in the rest of the world, such targeting and persecution of a people on the basis of their ethnicity would be completely unacceptable, the persecution and severe discrimination of Uighurs in many aspects of life in China remain unchallenged because Uighurs have no power in China.”

Body movements

Huawei’s patent was originally filed in July 2018, in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences .

It describes ways to use deep-learning artificial-intelligence techniques to identify various features of pedestrians photographed or filmed in the street.

It focuses on addressing the fact different body postures – for example whether someone is sitting or standing – can affect accuracy.

But the document also lists attributes by which a person might be targeted, which it says can include “race (Han [China’s biggest ethnic group], Uighur)”.

A spokesman said this reference should not have been included.

“Huawei opposes discrimination of all types, including the use of technology to carry out ethnic discrimination,” he said.

“Identifying individuals’ race was never part of the research-and-development project.

“It should never have become part of the application.

“And we are taking proactive steps to amend it.

“We are continuously working to ensure new and evolving technology is developed and applied with the utmost care and integrity.”

‘Confidential’ document

The patent was brought to light by the video-surveillance research group IPVM.

It had previously flagged a separate “confidential” document on Huawei’s website, referencing work on a “Uighur alert” system.

In that case, Huawei said the page referenced a test rather than a real-world application and denied selling systems that identified people by their ethnicity.

On Wednesday, Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Select Committee and leads the Conservative Party’s China Research Group, told BBC News: “Chinese tech giants supporting the brutal assault on the Uighur population show us why we as consumers and as a society must be careful with who we buy our products from or award business to.

“Developing ethnic-labelling technology for use by a repressive regime is clearly not behaviour that lives up to our standards.”

Facial-recognition software

IPVM also discovered references to Uighur people in patents filed by the Chinese artificial-intelligence company Sensetime and image-recognition specialist Megvii.

Sensetime’s filing, from July 2019, discusses ways facial-recognition software could be used for more efficient “security protection”, such as searching for “a middle-aged Uighur with sunglasses and a beard” or a Uighur person wearing a mask.

A Sensetime spokeswoman said the references were “regrettable”.

“We understand the importance of our responsibilities, which is why we began to develop our AI Code of Ethics in mid-2019,” she said, adding the patent had predated this code.

Ethnic-labelling solutions

Megvii’s June 2019 patent, meanwhile, described a way of relabelling pictures of faces tagged incorrectly in a database.

It said the classifications could be based on ethnicity, for example, including “Han, Uighur, non-Han, non-Uighur and unknown”.

The company told BBC News it would now withdraw the patent application.

“Megvii recognises that the language used in our 2019 patent application is open to misunderstanding,” it said.

“Megvii has not developed and will not develop or sell racial- or ethnic-labelling solutions.

“Megvii acknowledges that, in the past, we have focused on our commercial development and lacked appropriate control of our marketing, sales, and operations materials.

“We are undertaking measures to correct the situation.”

Attribute-recognition model

IPVM also flagged image-recognition patents filed by two of China’s biggest technology conglomerates, Alibaba and Baidu, that referenced classifying people by ethnicity but did not specifically mention the Uighur people by name.

Alibaba responded: “Racial or ethnic discrimination or profiling in any form violates our policies and values.

“We never intended our technology to be used for and will not permit it to be used for targeting specific ethnic groups.”

And Baidu said: “When filing for a patent, the document notes are meant as an example of a technical explanation, in this case describing what the attribute-recognition model is rather than representing the expected implementation of the invention.

“We do not and will not permit our technology to be used to identify or target specific ethnic groups.”

But Human Rights Watch said it still had concerns.

“Any company that sells video-surveillance software and systems to the Chinese police would have to ensure that they meet the police’s requirements, which includes the capacity for ethnicity detection,” Ms Wang said.

“The right thing for these companies to do is to immediately cease their sale and maintenance of surveillance equipment, software and systems, to the Chinese police.”

Source: Huawei patent mentions use of Uighur-spotting tech

US Muslims press Organization of Islamic Cooperation on China

Striking that only US Muslims appear to be making this call. Any Canadian Muslim groups doing the same?

US Muslim groups pleaded Thursday for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to speak out on China’s mass incarceration of Uighurs, accusing the global body of abetting what some described as genocide.

The OIC consists of 57 Muslim-majority nations and frequently takes up cases in which it believes Muslims are mistreated, criticizing Israel and, at Pakistan’s behest, India.

But the group headquartered in Saudi Arabia has not voiced alarm over China’s western region of Xinjiang, where rights groups say that more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are being held in camps as part of an effort to stamp out Islamic customs and forcibly integrate the community.

In a March 2019 resolution, the OIC said it “commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens” after a delegation visited.

A coalition of US Muslim organizations including the Council on American-Islamic Relations accused member-states of being cowed by China’s power.

“It’s very clear that China has an economic chokehold on the Muslim world and has been able to isolate every Muslim country into fear of even paying lip service to the Uighur cause,” Omar Sulieman, a Muslim American scholar and rights activist, told a virtual news conference.

“Whereas some Muslim countries will pay lip service to causes like the Palestinian cause,” he said, on the Uighur issue they will “continue to aid in the oppression,” especially by turning back asylum seekers.

Uighur Americana campaigner Rushan Abbas warned that nations could see the export of policies targeting Muslims as China pursues its massive Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative.

“China has a track record of buying and bullying. The genocide of the Uighurs is not China’s internal issue but is a humanity issue,” said Abbas, who said that her activism led China to detain her sister.

The United States, which has a rising rivalry with China, has likened the treatment of the Uighurs to actions of Nazi Germany and voiced disappointment that the OIC has not spoken up.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a rare leader from the Islamic world to have criticized China, while Malaysia has said it will not extradite Uighurs.

China describes the camps as vocational training centers and says that, like Western nations, it is working to reduce the allure of Islamic extremism.

Source: US Muslims press Organization of Islamic Cooperation on China

China Targets Muslim Scholars And Writers With Increasingly Harsh Restrictions

Yet another example of Chinese government repression:

This spring, 14 men were brought into police offices, where, one by one, they were subjected to weeks of questioning about their online correspondence and political views.

Their offense? Buying Islamic books.

The men were detained in Yiwu, China, an international commercial hub on the country’s wealthy east coast and home to a growing community of Muslims. The detentions are emblematic of increasingly harsh restrictions targeting spiritual and educational life for Muslims in China.

Once focused on giving minorities limited cultural autonomy, China’s ethnic policy has shifted in the last decade toward an approach that favors complete assimilation with China’s Han ethnic majority in language and religious practice. Muslims in China now fear that religious freedoms are regressing to those in the days of the Cultural Revolution, a decade of severe political and religious persecution in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Every household would burn their religious books in case they were searched. Shredders were sold out. People would flush the book ashes down the toilet, sometime clogging the pipes,” one Chinese Muslim publisher says of that era. “The persecution we are facing now is worse than that time.”

The publisher, who has fled China and continues to publish books from abroad, requested anonymity because at least 40 of his relatives have been detained or sentenced to prison for their religious beliefs or connection to him. Many in his publishing network have been arrested or fled the country.

“The state only wants its garden to have one type of flower,” he says. “The red ones. Green, blue or white flowers: if they are not red, they will be cut down.”

Targeting scholars and writers

“Intellectuals are the bearers of tradition. They’re looked up to as the arbiters, the judges of what is the the real Islam, and so they make an attractive target for a government that is interested in either controlling cultural expression or trying to completely reengineer it,” says Rian Thum, who studies Islam in China as a senior research fellow at Britain’s University of Nottingham.

China is home to about 23 million practicing Muslims, according to its 2010 census, the most recent count — less than 2% of the country’s population. Most are Uighur — a Turkic ethnic group — or labeled as Hui, ethnically and linguistically indistinguishable from China’s Han ethnic majority. Chinese Muslims are most densely clustered in the northwestern regions of Gansu, Ningxia and Xinjiang, but live across the country, as they have for more than a millennium.

Last year, NPR reported that authorities had forced nearly all mosques in Ningxia and the eastern province of Henan to “renovate” by removing their domes and Arabic script. Demolitions have since extended to mosques in Zhejiang and Gansu provinces. But practicing Muslims say the most heavy-handed restrictions have targeted the intangible channels through which they have preserved their faith in China for centuries.

Beginning in 2018, new religious restrictions shuttered hundreds of Arabic language and Islamic schools across Ningxia and Zhengzhou, Henan’s capital. Imams must now take political education classes as part of a revamped certification program. The program also mandates that they can only serve in the region where their household is registered, effectively disbarring hundreds of itinerant imams.

The restrictions have only intensified since then. Mosque demolitions have spread. The intellectual heart of China’s Islamic community has largely been silenced as scholars, writers, religious leaders and their families are under constant state surveillance. A once-thriving academic and religious exchange between Chinese Muslims and centers across the Middle East and South Asia has halted, as those having business or religious ties abroad are subject to Chinese state harassment and detention.

“What dominates Muslim [government] cadres is the [Communist] party line and the official version of Islam promoted by government agencies and organizations,” says Ma Haiyun, an assistant professor at Frostburg State University, where he studies Islam in China. “The result of this restriction is to make traditional discourses on Islam more commercial, patriotic and Chinese.”

“We lived like ghosts”

The door to Qingzhen Shuju — Islam Books — remains padlocked, the shop full of stacks of books in their unopened packaging.

Located in an upscale university neighborhood in Beijing, the bookstore and its accompanying website were a prominent publisher of Islamic philosophy works and the newest Arabic works translated into Chinese — until publisher Ma Yinglong (no relation to Ma Haiyun) was arrested in 2017 on charges of illegal publishing and terrorism. Two people close to him say he remains in detention in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

A second influential publisher, Ma Zhixiong (no relation to either Ma), ran a prolific imprint called Tianma Publishing from China’s southwestern Yunnan province until he too was imprisoned for selling illegal books, in 2015. He was released on probation this year.

“The printing plant was closed and our equipment and all books were confiscated. In the first days [of my imprisonment], I was almost completely cut off from the outside world,” Ma Zhixiong wrote in an essay widely circulated this fall among chat groups on the Chinese WeChat app. “During my prison days, human dignity disappeared. Every day, people had to take off their clothes for inspection and to hold our heads while squatting down while being interrogated… We lived like ghosts.”

The two publishers were a critical link in a world of writers, publishers and bookstores, the backbone for religious studies in China. Their arrests are evidence of a crackdown widening from its epicenter in Xinjiang, where authorities have detained hundreds of thousands of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities, sentencing some to lengthy prison terms for practicing Islam.

Despite international criticism, Chinese leader Xi Jinping declared the detention and security policies in Xinjiang “entirely correct” and a “success” at a September meeting of party officials. “We must persevere in Sinicizing the direction of our country’s religions,” he said.

The crushing of China’s Muslim writing community is a marked reversal from a period of literary openness after economic and political reforms took hold in the 1980s.

Despite some restrictions, Muslim writers thrived in the laissez-faire atmosphere of those decades. For example, unable to get the commercial book codes — similar to an ISBN number — allotted to state-sanctioned publishers for state-approved volumes, writers and editors self-published their works and distributed them by mail to readers and religious bookstores that were ubiquitous for decades outside larger mosques.

“Many people have been oppressed for their speech in China but among the Muslim community, those who get into trouble for their writing or publishing have gone unnoticed,” a prominent Chinese Muslim writer tells NPR.

He fled China last year after friends warned that police were seeking to detain him. He requested anonymity out of concern for the safety of his immediate family, almost all of whom remain in China.

He and hundreds of other Chinese Muslims used to moderate online forums and events and curated websites that discussed issues of scripture and philosophy. By 2016, those sites were shut down or censored within China’s Great Firewall. They moved to WeChat, where the writer now runs chat groups of 500 people each, but doing so requires constant vigilance: “Even on WeChat,” he says, “it is a continuous process of continually being shut down by censors and starting a new group.”

WeChat would also ensnare the 14 people detained in Yiwu earlier this year; all had purchased this writer’s books on history, scripture and philosophy through the app.

“They interrogated them about their relationship with several Muslim intellectuals and overseas Chinese Muslims. The police had printed out the text records everyone had had on WeChat with writers and publishers,” said a friend of one of those detained, who requested anonymity to avoid detention for speaking out. “Now the police say every time they travel, they have to report to them beforehand when they are leaving and where they are going.”

As for China’s Muslim community leaders, “There are no imams who dare to speak out,” says a scholar who leads a Quran reading group in northwestern China. “You can renounce your state-given imam certification and leave the mosque in order to speak out — but then you can be sure you will be constantly monitored.”

“They know what you are up to”

Beginning in 2017, Chinese Muslims outside Xinjiang watched with dread as hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a Turkic ethnic minority, were detained and sent either to “reeducation centers” or prison.

Soon after, Xinjiang security officers began fanning out to other provinces to send Hui Muslims with identity documents registered in Xinjiang back to the region.

One of those forcibly returned to Xinjiang was a young Hui woman who taught at a religious school in a mosque outside Xinjiang, after completing a theological studies degree at Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University. Last December, Xinjiang police abruptly detained her and brought her back to her hometown of Tacheng.

“We asked them, why send 30 men to apprehend a young woman and her infant at 11 at night. It was unbelievable,” says a fellow teacher who asked to remain anonymous and keep his location withheld because he was detained and questioned after speaking to NPR.

He learned in March that the woman had been slapped with a seven-year prison sentence but doesn’t know on what charges.

Four Hui Muslims born in Xinjiang told NPR they managed to change the registration of their identity documents, called hukou, to another province before 2017, as restrictions on Uighurs and practicing Muslims in Xinjiang became more draconian.

Others moved abroad, but even outside China, Xinjiang security officials continue to harass them through WeChat.

“My hometown police somehow knew that I had even moved apartments this year,” says one Hui Muslim now living in Egypt who requested anonymity for fear of retribution from Chinese security officials. The police officers send “friendly” messages weekly, the person says, full of smiley faces, heart emojis and stickers, but their intent is clear: “It is meant to show they know what you are up to and to remind you of where you are from.”

Efforts to co-opt Muslim leaders

Xinjiang policing has even reached a beachside city on Hainan, a Chinese tropical island province in the South China Sea. Home to a small community of historically Muslim Utsuls, Hainan’s warm climes have begun attracting retirees and vacationers from other provinces during the winter months, including large numbers of Hui Muslims.

Last February, during Lunar New Year holidays, two Xinjiang public security officers set up a table at one of the six mosques in the city of Sanya to register identification documents of everyone who attended Friday prayers, according to two people who attended prayers that day. One of them evaded registration by slipping out through a side door.

In September, at the start of the fall semester, public schools in predominantly Utsul neighborhoods in Sanya began banning female students from wearing headscarves to class. Videos shared with NPR show the female students being cordoned outside the Tianya Utsul Elementary School because they refused to comply.

Local Communist Party regulations now ban party members from practicing Islam and call for increased governance of Muslim neighborhoods in Sanya, according to the South China Morning Post.

Chinese security forces have also been seeding the ranks of local branches of the Islamic Association of China, a state-run body which organizes the only officially permitted hajj pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.

One Islamic scholar says his son was approached by Chinese security officers this year, shortly before his son’s promotion as imam of a mosque and membership in the Islamic Association. NPR is not disclosing his name or location because he was detained and questioned after speaking with NPR.

“They offered [him] a full civil servant’s salary and pension for the work and an appointment as board member of a local state company if he secretly worked for them,” the scholar says.

His son refused the offer.

Source: China Targets Muslim Scholars And Writers With Increasingly Harsh Restrictions

Night Images Reveal Many New Detention Sites in China’s Xinjiang Region

Seems like every week if not more, new details regarding Chinese government repression emerge:

As China faced rising international censure last year over its mass internment of Muslim minorities, officials asserted that the indoctrination camps in the western region of Xinjiang had shrunk as former camp inmates rejoined society as reformed citizens.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Thursday challenged those claims with an investigation that found that the Xinjiang authorities had been expanding a variety of detention sites since last year.

Rather than being released, many detainees were likely being sent to prisons and perhaps other facilities, the investigation found, citing satellite images of new and expanded incarceration sites.

Nathan Ruser, a researcher who led the project at the institute, also called ASPI, said the findings undercut Chinese officials’ claims that inmates from the camps — which the government calls vocational training centers — had “graduated.”

“Evidence suggests that many extrajudicial detainees in Xinjiang’s vast ‘re-education’ network are now being formally charged and locked up in higher security facilities, including newly built or expanded prisons,” Mr. Ruser wrote in the report.

The Chinese government has created formidable barriers to investigating conditions in Xinjiang. Officials tail and harass foreign journalists, making it impossible to safely conduct interviews. Access to camps is limited to selected visitors, who are taken on choreographed tours where inmates are shown singing and dancing.

The researchers for the new report overcame those barriers with long-distance sleuthing. They pored over satellite images of Xinjiang at night to find telltale clusters of new lights, especially in barely habited areas, which often proved to be new detention sites. A closer examination of such images sometimes revealed hulking buildings, surrounded by high walls, watchtowers and barbed-wire internal fencing — features that distinguished detention facilities from other large public compounds like schools or hospitals.

“I don’t believe this timing is merely coincidental,” Timothy Grose, an associate professor of China studies at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, who was not involved in the ASPI project, said of the accumulating evidence of expanding incarceration sites.

“In my opinion, we are witnessing a new stage in the crisis,” he said. “Some detainees have been released, others have been placed in factories, while others still have been sentenced.”

China has repeatedly refused to disclose the number of detention sites and detainees in Xinjiang and elsewhere. The ASPI researchers found and examined some 380 suspected detention sites in Xinjiang. At least 61 of them had expanded in area between July 2019 and July of this year, and of those, 14 were still growing, according to the latest-available satellite images.

The researchers divided the sites into four security levels, and they said that about half of the expanding sites were higher-security facilities.

The researchers found signs that some re-education camps were being rolled back, partially confirming government claims of a shift. At least 70 sites had seen the removal of security infrastructure such as internal fencing or perimeter walls, and eight camps appeared to be undergoing decommissioning, they wrote. The facilities apparently being scaled back were largely lower-security camps, they said.

Under Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, the authorities have carried out a sweeping crackdown in Xinjiang, with as many as one million or more people incarcerated in recent years, according to scholars’ estimates. The ASPI report was issued one day after the sixth anniversary of a key moment in the increasingly harsh campaign, the sentencing of Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur scholar, to life in prison.

Late last year, Shohrat Zakir, the chairman of the Xinjiang government, told reporters in Beijing that the re-education sites were now housing only people who were there voluntarily, and that others who had been in the facilities had “graduated.” Where to, he did not say.

The ASPI report builds on previous investigations that also pointed to explosive growth in the prison population in Xinjiang over recent years, even as the building of indoctrination camps appeared to peak.

Last month, BuzzFeed News found 268 detention compounds in Xinjiang built since 2017. The news organization identified the compounds with the help of spots blanked out of the online mapping service from Baidu, the Chinese technology company.

An investigation by The New York Times last year found that courts in Xinjiang — where Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities make up more than half of the population of 25 million — sentenced 230,000 people to prison or other punishments in 2017 and 2018, far more than in any other period on record for the region.

Official sentencing statistics for 2019 have not been released. But a report released by the authorities in Xinjiang early this year said that prosecutors indicted 96,596 people for criminal trial in 2019, suggesting that the flow of trials — which almost always lead to convictions — was lower than in the previous two years, but still much higher than in the years before the crackdown took off.

“Even though the internment camps are obviously the most headline-grabbing aspect of what’s happening, there’s been a much broader effort from the beginning that has also included significant incarceration” in prisons, said Sean R. Roberts, an associate professor at George Washington University and author of “The War on the Uyghurs: China’s Campaign Against Xinjiang’s Muslims.” (Uyghur is another spelling for Uighur.)

Uighurs who have left China often struggle to find out what has happened to family members who were detained, and possibly tried and imprisoned.

Still, growing numbers of Uighurs abroad report having learned of relatives being sentenced to prison terms of five, 10 or even 15 years on sweeping charges like “separatism,” said Elise Anderson, a senior program officer for research and advocacy with the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a group based in Washington, who is involved in an unfinished study of incarceration in Xinjiang.

“In some cases, people don’t even know what’s happened and have to guess,” Ms. Anderson said.

Sayyara Arkin, a Uighur woman living in the United States, said she waited years for news of her brother, Hursan Hasan, a well-known actor in Xinjiang who was taken into a re-education camp in 2018. Earlier this month, her family in Xinjiang told her that Mr. Hasan had been sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of separatism, Ms. Arkin said by telephone.

“I felt shocked,” Ms. Arkin said. “He’s an actor who focused on his work, an intellectual who had the acceptance of the government, and I never imagined this would happen.”

The United States has begun to take a more confrontational stance toward China over the repression in Xinjiang. This year, the Trump administration has imposed sanctions on officials responsible for policy in the region, as well as the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which is both a farm conglomerate and a quasi-military security institution. It has also imposed restrictions on imports of clothing, hair products and technological goods from Xinjiang, but stopped short of banning all cotton and tomatoes, two of the region’s key exports.

This week, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would bar any imports from Xinjiang unless they were proven not to have been produced using forced labor.

The Chinese government initially denied reports of mass detention in Xinjiang, and later defended the indoctrination camps, describing them as benign places that provide job training and counter religious extremism and terrorism. In a white paper released last week, Beijing defended its labor policies in the region, saying that it observed international labor and human rights standards and that its work was a successful example of governance in “underdeveloped areas with large populations of ethnic minorities.”

The Chinese authorities have also sharply criticized the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called its earlier report on forced labora “fabricated and biased accusation.” Mr. Zhao also attacked the institute’s backers, which include the State Department. ASPI says that its research is independent and not influenced by its funding sources.

Some Uighur exiles have argued that the Chinese government’s crackdown in their homeland amounts to genocide. Earlier this month, a group of watchdog groups and experts issued a joint letter that said China’s policies in Xinjiang “meet the threshold of acts constitutive of genocide,” a crime brought into international law after World War II, as well as other possible crimes against humanity.

The Chinese government has angrily rejected such claims. And the continued growth of detention sites across Xinjiang suggests that the authorities are determined to transform and subdue Uighur society for generations to come.

“The Chinese government potentially could keep up this regime of intense repression for a significant amount of time,” said Professor Roberts of George Washington University. “It could essentially destroy the Uighur identity as we know it inside China.”

Source: nytimes.com/2020/09/24/wor…

Glavin: Don’t show up at Black Lives Matter rallies in clothes made by slaves

While much of Glavin’s commentary is appropriate, he overstates IMO the contrast between the USA and Canada, given that all the big companies he lists as being complicit, have a large American retail presence with comparable sourcing issues. Not too mention Disney’s Mulan shot in Xinjiang.

So while American laws may be better, is the reality?

It’s positively uplifting, you could say, that owing to the protests and riots and presidential election-year shouting about systemic racism and police violence in the United States, quite a few Canadians seem to have developed an acutely attentive awareness of the history of Black slavery in America and its enduring legacy. Perhaps not so heartwarming is that the throngs of earnest protesters turning out for all those Black Lives Matter rallies across Canada are wearing clothes made by slaves.

That Canadians of even the most advanced progressive sophistication give every appearance of being completely oblivious to this ugly irony is even less uplifting. An entire summer of American-style protests about the wickedness of racism and capitalism has come and gone without any obvious notice that Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Adidas, Esprit, Calvin Klein, Nike, UNIQLO, H&M, Lacoste and quite a few other globe-spanning corporations are demonstrably implicated in slavery, child labour, and forced-labour production in prisons and detention centres and sweatshops from Dhaka to Urumqi.

In July, the International Confederation of Trade Unions joined with 180 human rights and Uyghur advocacy organizations to launch an ambitious campaign to bring all this to light and to bring forced Uyghur labour to an end. It’s hard to say whether the campaign has gained much traction. Perhaps they should pull down some statues.

At least the U.S. Congress has been doing its bit. The bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would build on existing U.S. prohibitions on the import of slave-made goods, and the proposed Slave-Free Business Certification Act is an even tougher law, promising penalties of up to $500 million.

Canadians, however – for all our boasts about being unstained by the original American sin of slavery – have long been global laggards in the cause of slavery’s abolition. Unlike the United States, Britain, Australia, France, Italy, Germany, Norway and so on, Canada has no specific legislation aimed at banning the import of goods produced by forced labour. World Vision Canada reckons that forced labour or child labour is implicated in $34 billion in products imported into Canada annually.

It is doubly embarrassing – maybe this is why it’s been the subject of nearly no public notice at all – that it’s taking the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, the deal that replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement, to drag Canada into the world’s anti-slavery camp. Effective July 1, USMCA requires Canada to amend the Customs tariff laws to impose prohibitions on the importation of goods produced wholly or in part by forced labour.The USMCA’s forced-labour provisions should be expected to put wind in the sails of an effort by Liberal MP John McKay and Quebec Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne that has been marooned in a procedural tidepool of committee hearings and on-again, off-again consultations for two years. Their proposed law, the Modern Slavery Act, would force corporations to show that their supply chains are free of forced labour, on pain of fines of up to $250,000.

Because the Americans were already in compliance with the UMSCA’s forced-labour provisions, on July 1 they hit the ground running. U.S. law already allows for the seizure of goods and criminal charges for violators, and just this week, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was preparing to block imports of cotton from Xinjiang, where almost all of China’s cotton fields are located. One in five garments worldwide contains cotton from Xinjiang.

The U.S. import bans are expected to also include tomato products and human hair, and computer parts from Hefei Bitland Information Technology. Products from the Lop County Industrial Park and Lop County No. 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Center are headed for banned list, following the July 1 seizure of several tons of hair extensions shipped to the U.S. believed to have been “harvested” from Uyghur women by the Lop County Meixin Hair Products Company. The U.S. State Department has also warned Walmart, Amazon and the Apple corporation that they face severe legal risks over their supply chains associated with Xinjiang.

According to the Walk Free Foundation’s 2018 Global Slavery Index, Canada is vulnerable to slave-labour contamination in supply chains involving nearly $10 billion worth of laptop computers and mobile phones annually imported from China and Malaysia, and $6 billion worth of apparel imports. Several other supply chains are suspect, including gold from Peru and sugarcane from Brazil.

While Canada has been noticeably absent in the global struggle against slavery, there is one Canadian bright spot, involving a particularly grotesque Canadian embarrassment.

The bright spot: Last March, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that three Eritrean refugees could sue the Vancouver-based mining company Nevsun Resources for engaging in slavery and committing crimes against humanity at the notorious Bisha gold, copper and zinc mine in Eritrea, co-owned by Nevsun and the Eritrean dictatorship. The three plaintiffs in the case say they were conscripted into the military and forced to work at the mine for 11, 14 and 17 years respectively, and that they were tortured and made to put in 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week.

The embarrassment: Four years ago, when a UN commission of inquiry confirmed reports of abuse at the mine so grotesque as to amount to crimes against humanity, it turned out that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board owned 1.5 million shares of Bevsun Resources. In 2018, Nevsun’s shareholders agreed to sell the company for $1.86 billion to China’s Zijin Mining Group.

Perhaps Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should take a knee.

Source: Glavin: Don’t show up at Black Lives Matter rallies in clothes made by slaves