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Congressional report rips China a new one on Orwellian use of technology, urges action against egregious human rights abuses

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The US Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) tears China to shreds in its annual report citing massive crimes against humanity from Hong Kong to Xinjiang.

“An Orwellian policing platform that observes every aspect of life and allows Chinese officials to tighten their control of Uyghurs”

The CECC urged Congress and the White House to take legislative and executive action to hold China accountable for acts such as “committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people and other Turkic Muslims” in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) where an estimated 1 million people are held in “reeducation camps.”

According to the scathing CECC executive summary, “Outside the camps, the Chinese government and Party have created a pervasive and high-tech surveillance system in the XUAR that some observers have called an ‘open-air prison.’

“The system integrates facial recognition cameras and real-time monitoring of cell phones into an Orwellian policing platform that observes every aspect of life in the XUAR and allows Chinese officials to tighten their control of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in the region.

“This surveillance system is implemented—often with the assistance of domestic and international businesses—using security personnel and surveillance technology that helps Chinese officials repress Uyghurs and others in the XUAR.”

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“Chinese domestic businesses and international businesses are increasingly at risk of complicity in the egregious human rights violations committed by the Chinese Communist Party and government”

The CECC report warned that it’s not just Chinese businesses that are contributing to the horrors in XUAR, but that companies outside of China also play a role, unwittingly or otherwise.

For example, “One investigation found that materials from firms using forced labor in the XUAR had entered the supply chains of major international clothing companies, including Adidas, H&M, Nike, and Patagonia.”

Within China companies such as Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, SenseTime, Megvii, CloudWalk, Yitu, and Tiandy all reportedly sold technology to Chinese authorities for use in surveillance systems, which was then used “to surveil rights advocates and others the government views as threats.”

So, what does the Congressional report recommend that Congress and the president actually do about China with respect to it’s digital authoritarianism?

The CECC’s suggestions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Hold accountable Chinese business entities and officials complicit in the mass internment and surveillance of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minorities and to encourage like-minded allies to issue their own sanctions.
  • Control sales of new and emerging technologies, including facial recognition systems, machine learning, and biometric and artificial intelligence technologies, by placing the XUAR government and security agencies on the US Department of Commerce’s “Entity List.”
  • Lead a global effort with allies and partners to develop a set of principles for Artificial Intelligence (AI) development and usage to ensure the protection of human rights, including the right to privacy.
  • Launch a digital infrastructure initiative that makes information and communication technology development a priority for US foreign assistance programs.
  • Develop a comprehensive interagency action plan to promote internet freedom though the funding and wide distribution of effective technologies that provide the greatest possible access to the internet within China and globally.

At The Sociable, we’ve reported extensively on China over the past few months, and we have covered many topics that were included in the report.

Forced facial scanning of all citizens registering mobile phones, DNA phenotyping to profile an entire ethnic population for identification and detention, predictive policing by algorithm, massive surveillance, and censorship are just some of the many abuses Communist China is perpetrating against its own people.

That’s what China is doing within its own borders, but its international data, technology, and intellectual property theft also runs deep.

In fact the Communist regime is the single greatest counterintelligence threat to the United States, according to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The Congressional report on China is out. It is now on the shoulders of Congress and the president to take action, should they choose.

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co