China using facial recognition, big data to track and detain Uighur Muslims
The data is used to flag behaviours, including wearing the Islamic veil, studying the Quran, or travelling to Mecca for pilgrimage, according to a Human Rights Watch report on Wednesday.
The rights watchdog said it obtained a list of more than 2,000 detainees in Xinjiang's Aksu prefecture which showed how Beijing "arbitrarily selects" candidates for arrest.
The programme, dubbed the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), also analysed relationships, communications and could flag individuals based on family relations.
"The Chinese government owes answers to the families of those on the list: Why were they detained, and where are they now?"
The list includes details of one individual, named as 'Ms T', who was arrested due to "links to sensitive countries", HRW said. According to the list, Ms T had received four calls from her sister who had used a foreign number in 2017.
In another case, a man was flagged and arrested for having taken Quran lessons in the 1980s and for having "let his wife wear a veil", HRW said.
The chilling report comes as Chinese tech giant Huawei allegedly used AI-powered facial recognition technology to send alerts whenever a member of the Muslim Uighur minority was detected.
According to a document seen by video surveillance information organisation IPVM, Huawei worked with facial recognition startup Megvii to develop the AI camera system in 2018. The document was reportedly signed by Huawei representatives.
The system developed by Megvii and Huawei was able to approximate an individuals age, ethnicity and sex, and triggered a "Uighur alarm" when a member of the persecuted minority was detected.
Beijing is under intense international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang province, where rights groups say as many as one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim minorities are being held in internment camps.
China has long denied persecuting its Uighur Muslim minority, claiming that its 're-education' camps provide training programmes, work schemes and better education to help stamp out extremism.
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