Tech companies in the European Union have sent surveillance equipment and software to the Chinese Communist Party, some of which is being actively used to oppress the Uyghur people in Xinjiang, a report from Amnesty International claimed.
The report found that three companies, Morpho (now Idemia) from France, Axis Communications from Sweden, and Noldus Information Technology from the Netherlands have actively been sending digital surveillance technology and software to China, where it is being used by the CCP’s public security bureaus, police agencies, and government research projects.
Amnesty International said that the technology, which includes facial and emotional recognition software and equipment, is being used in the Western Chinese province of Xinjiang, where it is believed that between one and three million Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups are being interned in concentration camps.
The report said that Dutch company Noldus Information Technology sold “emotion recognition systems” to government security bureaus in China, which in turn was provided to university research institutes with ties to the CCP security apparatus in Xinjiang.
Sweedish company Axis Communications was reported to have supplied surveillance cameras to the ‘Skynet Upgrading and Reconstruction Project’ in the southern Chinese city of Guilin, which saw the cities surveillance system grow from 8,000 cameras to around 30,000 in one year.
In 2015, Morpho — now a part of the French multinational Idemia — secured a contract with the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, supplying the communist policing agency with facial recognition software for its surveillance systems.
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Merel Koning, a senior policy officer at Amnesty International, said: “EU governments’ condemnation of the systematic repression in Xinjiang rings hollow if they continue to allow companies to sell the very technology that could be enabling these abuses. The current EU export regulation system is broken and needs fixing fast.”
The report called for the EU to amend its export regulations in order to prevent state actors in China from using European tech to surveil and oppress the Chinese people.
“For example, facial recognition technologies are not on the control list of the EU export regulation framework. These technologies can be exported freely to every buyer around the globe, including Chinese public security bureaus,” the report noted.
“None of the companies fulfilled their human rights due diligence responsibilities for these transactions, as prescribed by international human rights law,” the report added, warning: “The exports pose significant risks to human rights.”
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A set of leaked documents from the CCP in February showed that the Chinese state utilises hi-tech surveillance equipment to monitor every move made by Uyghur residents in Xinjiang. The CCP document detailed the supposed offences that landed 311 people into “reeducation” such as fasting, growing a beard, or applying for a passport.
Those found to have violated the ethics of the communist regime have been regularly subjected to torture, rape, forced sterilisation, and organ harvesting according to those who have escaped the concentration camps.
A spokesman for Noldus claimed that it does not manufacture surveillance equipment and that it implemented a ban on sales of technology that may be used for surveillance in 2019.
An Axis spokesman said: “We understand that our solutions, like many other technologies, can be used for purposes other than intended, and that we because of this put great effort in integrating ethics into our business operations. This includes respect for human rights and applicable laws and regulations, and that we only develop solutions for user scenarios we believe in. Today, we have export control mechanisms and also systematic screening of customers.”
Idemia claimed that the company does not sell facial recognition tech to the Chinese Communist Party, saying that the sale of software to the Shanghai PSB was “under no circumstances … in any position to be used for real-time surveillance.”
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