Leaked documents link Huawei to China’s domestic spying in Xinjiang

Huawei participated in the construction of technology for labor and re-education camps, as well as surveillance systems in China’s Xinjiang region, according to PowerPoint presentations obtained and translated by The Washington Post. The report shows some of the ways the tech giant’s work may have been involved in the persecution against ethnic minorities in the region.

The Washington Post says it got the PowerPoints from a public Huawei site before they were removed. According to the report, the slides included details about Huawei’s involvement with other companies in creating various systems and had metadata dating from 2014 to 2020 (with copyright dates listed from 2016 to 2018).

Translated slide describing part of Huawei’s work on smart prisons.
Image: The Washington Post

One of the slides talks about Huawei’s products being “the foundation of the unified smart prisons platform,” referring to manpower for manufacturing and re-education efficiency analysis. According to The chargeSome of the prisons in which Huawei said its technology is used are in Xinjiang, a region populated largely by Uighur Muslims. The Chinese government has been accused of carrying out many human rights violations against Uighurs, putting them in detention and re-education camps and using them for forced labor. (Many tech companies have been linked to using this workforce.)

Another slide translated by The Washington Post details a surveillance system used in Xinjiang. He talks about how public security forces in the region’s capital Ürümqi used a facial recognition system to catch a fugitive. In 2020, a report by video surveillance researchers detailed Huawei’s work on a facial recognition system that could send an alert if it identified someone as Uighur. According to The Washington Post, the submissions of Huawei’s work on surveillance systems make no mention of the Uyghurs, and the company has denied direct supply of technology to Xinjiang.

Other slides translated by The charge described electronic surveillance systems.
Image: The Washington Post

Other slides in the report detail the Post’s technology used to identify people based on their voiceprint, systems to track people’s location based on surveillance footage, and technology to monitor employees at work.

Many companies have been included on the US Government Entities List (which restricts how US companies can do business with them) for allegedly helping the Chinese government to police minority groups in the US. Xinjiang region. An important example is DJI, but few have received as much attention from the US government as Huawei, although the attention came largely from former President Trump’s trade war with China. In February 2020, the US government suggested that telecoms spend their money on Huawei’s competitors and accused the company of building back doors in their equipment.

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