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  • Concerns Mount Over Adoption and Export of Biometric Surveillance

  • Netizen Voices: “Misogyny With Chinese Characteristics on the Diplomatic Stage”

  • Uyghurs Speak Out About Camps at Risk of Death

 


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Concerns Mount Over Adoption and Export of Biometric Surveillance

At The Financial Times on Friday, Yuan Yang and Madhumita Murgia offered an overview of facial recognition technology’s adoption in China, public reception, and widespread export:

What do Uganda’s police force, a Mongolian prison and Zimbabwean airports have in common? All three are in the process of testing facial recognition systems and all three have used Chinese technology to do it. At least 52 governments are doing the same thing according to research by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

[… "Chinese] companies are particularly well-suited to provide [advanced surveillance capabilities],” says [Carnegie fellow Steven] Feldstein, “but also they are willing to go to markets that perhaps western competitors are less willing to go to.”

[… Huawei], which was blacklisted for allegedly posing a threat to US national security this year, has supplied surveillance equipment — including facial recognition — to roughly 230 cities worldwide stretching from western Europe to large swaths of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It supplies more countries with AI video surveillance than anyone else according to Carnegie.

[…] But the question of who is driving the surveillance rollout is not straightforward. “I would beware of the idea that Africa is a blank slate, where the Chinese arrive bringing their oppressive ways,” says Iginio Gagliardone, author of China, Africa, and the Future of the Internet. “Companies are spinning their products to fit the political demands of African elites.” [Source]

Last week, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released an AI- and surveillance-focused expansion of its ambitious Mapping China’s Tech Giants project, which now tracks the global footprint of 23 companies and other entities through more than 26,000 data points. ASPI’s Danielle Cave commented on the FT report:

Subsequent tweets highlight examples from the Philippines, Ecuador, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

At The Wall Street Journal on Friday, Liza Lin and Newley Purnell focused on another new report (also cited in the FT piece) on the global proliferation of video and facial recognition surveillance:

The report, from industry researcher IHS Markit, to be released Thursday, said the number of cameras used for surveillance would climb above 1 billion by the end of 2021. That would represent an almost 30% increase from the 770 million cameras today. China would continue to account for a little over half the total.

Fast-growing, populous nations such as India, Brazil and Indonesia would also help drive growth in the sector, the report said. The number of surveillance cameras in the U.S. would grow to 85 million by 2021, from 70 million last year, as American schools, malls and offices seek to tighten security on their premises, IHS analyst Oliver Philippou said.

Mr. Philippou said said government programs to implement widespread video surveillance to monitor the public would be the biggest catalyst for the growth in China. City surveillance also was driving demand elsewhere.

[…] Chinese companies Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd. and Dahua Technology Co. are the biggest camera manufacturers by far, accounting for almost 38% of total installations, according to the report. But there are major non-Chinese names in the business as well, including South Korean maker Hanwha Techwin, and Panasonic Corp. of Japan. [Source]

The report notes that the U.S. currently has more security cameras per capita than China, although only 3% of those in the U.S. are part of city surveillance schemes. Both countries ranked poorly in a recent Comparitech study of biometric data handling around the world. China received the worst score of the included countries, while the U.S. ranked fourth from bottom. Comparitech’s Paul Bischoff wrote that these and other low-ranking countries showed "a concerning lack of regard for the privacy of people’s biometric data. Through the collection, use, and storage of biometric data, these countries use biometrics to a severe and invasive extent."

China only managed to scrape back one mark for its lack of a biometric voting system. However, the voting system is very heavily controlled, which perhaps rids the need for biometric voting. It also scored maximum points across all of the other categories for:

  • Using biometrics in passports, ID cards, and bank accounts.
    Not having a specific law to protect citizens’ biometrics.
  • Its extensive nationwide biometric database is currently being expanded to include DNA.
  • Its widespread and invasive use of facial recognition technology in CCTV cameras. As our previous study, Surveillance States, found, facial recognition cameras are now being used to track and monitor the country’s Muslim minority, Uighurs, among other things. Beijing is also trialing facial recognition technology at security checkpoints on the subway so it can divide travelers into groups, something they’re hoping to expand to include buses, taxis, and other travel services. And, at the time of writing, China has also introduced facial recognition checks for anyone getting a new mobile phone number.
  • Its lack of safeguards for employees in the workplace. Companies have even been permitted to monitor employees’ brain waves for productivity while they’re at work.
  • The majority of countries require a visa to enter China and all of the visas issued contain biometrics. Fingerprints of anyone entering China are also taken. [Source]

At Sixth Tone, Cai Xuejiao reported on recent public opinion data from China:

A survey conducted by Nandu Personal Information Protection Research Center — a think tank affiliated with the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper — revealed that 80% of respondents were concerned about their personal information being leaked due to a lack of security. The research institute surveyed 6,152 people between October and November to explore public attitudes toward the application of facial recognition at transport hubs, schools, residential complexes, and shopping malls.

[…] Despite the technology’s increasing usage, a majority of survey respondents said they were concerned about financial fraud and “deepfakes,” or manipulated videos that can potentially be used to spread misinformation. More than 73% said they would prefer alternatives to sharing their facial data, and 83% said they wanted a way to access or delete the data.

Last month, a law professor in the eastern Zhejiang province filed a landmark lawsuit against a local safari park for implementing a mandatory face-screening measure. He accused the park of collecting unnecessary personal data and not letting visitors opt out.

[…] Privacy concerns aside, many of the survey respondents — between 60% and 70% — also agreed that facial recognition is convenient and ensures safety. [Source]

For more on privacy concerns in China, see a World Economic Forum post from last month by New York University’s Winston Ma Wenyan—describing the public backlash against corporate data gathering and handling, the beginnings of official regulation, and its likely effectiveness—and more from CDT.

In his ChinAI newsletter this week, Oxford University’s Jeffrey Ding highlights a recent WeChat post by Tsinghua law professor Lao Dongyan, who argues against the adoption of facial recognition on the Beijing subway system. Although "it’s not a piece representative of all discussions of the ethics of facial recognition in China," he writes, "it does go farther than any other piece by a Chinese scholar I’ve seen in its strong opposition to facial recognition technology." From the newsletter’s summary of his full translation:

The essay is structured into four arguments against the use of facial recognition in the Beijing Subway as well as rebuttals to four possible counterarguments. The four arguments:

  • The relevant organizations and institutions have not proven the legitimacy of their collection method for sensitive personal information
  • The legitimacy of the new facial recognition measure is undercut without a hearing of the public’s views (e.g. the Beijing subway undertook a broad solicitation of the public’s views on a fare adjustment a few years earlier)
  • The standards for how the Beijing subway will conduct screenings are not transparent, could be arbitrarily set, and could be discriminatory.
  • There is not enough evidence to show that the use of facial recognition in subways can improve transport efficiency; even if there is evidence to prove this, efficiency itself is not a sufficient basis for implementation.

[…] Her conclusion sticks the landing: “If this society has not yet fallen into a state of persecution and paranoia, it is time to say enough on security issues. The hysterical pursuit of security has brought to society not security at all, but complete suppression and panic." [Source]

Like facial recognition, DNA collection and analysis has been a longstanding focus of concern regarding biometric data, its security, and its potential abuse, particularly in Xinjiang. At The New York Times last week, Sui-Lee Wee and Paul Mozur reported on an area of convergence between the two, as researchers in China and elsewhere attempt to generate accurate facial images from DNA samples.

In the long term, experts say, it may even be possible for the Communist government to feed images produced from a DNA sample into the mass surveillance and facial recognition systems that it is building, tightening its grip on society by improving its ability to track dissidents and protesters as well as criminals.

Some of this research is taking place in labs run by China’s Ministry of Public Security, and at least two Chinese scientists working with the ministry on the technology have received funding from respected institutions in Europe. International scientific journals have published their findings without examining the origin of the DNA used in the studies or vetting the ethical questions raised by collecting such samples in Xinjiang.

[… E]xperts widely question phenotyping’s effectiveness. Currently, it often produces facial images that are too smooth or indistinct to look like the face being replicated. DNA cannot indicate other factors that determine how people look, such as age or weight. DNA can reveal gender and ancestry, but the technology can be hit or miss when it comes to generating an image as specific as a face.

Phenotyping also raises ethical issues, said Pilar Ossorio, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The police could use it to round up large numbers of people who resemble a suspect, or use it to target ethnic groups. And the technology raises fundamental issues of consent from those who never wanted to be in a database to begin with. [Source]

On Twitter, Wee and Mozur described their findings, the reporting process, and Xinjiang officials’ efforts to disrupt it:

In a follow-up report, the two focused on these ethical issues:

Two publishers of prestigious scientific journals, Springer Nature and Wiley, said this week that they would re-evaluate papers they previously published on Tibetans, Uighurs and other minority groups. The papers were written or co-written by scientists backed by the Chinese government, and the two publishers want to make sure the authors got consent from the people they studied.

Springer Nature, which publishes the influential journal Nature, also said that it was toughening its guidelines to make sure scientists get consent, particularly if those people are members of a vulnerable group.

[…] When Western journals publish such papers by Chinese scientists affiliated with the country’s surveillance agencies, it amounts to selling a knife to a friend “knowing that your friend would use the knife to kill his wife,” said Yves Moreau, a professor of engineering at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.

[…] The science world has been responding to the pressure. Thermo Fisher, a maker of equipment for studying genetics, said in February that it would suspend sales to Xinjiang, though it will continue to sell to other parts of China. Still, Dr. Moreau said, the issue initially received little traction among academia. [Source]

Elsewhere, IPVM recently reported on the use of Intel and Nvidia chips in ethnicity detection systems in Xinjiang, noting that "Intel promptly condemned the usage while NVIDIA remains silent to IPVM inquiries."

In an essay at Nature last week, Moreau described China as "the most striking case" in a global trend of DNA database adoption. "With stringent safeguards and oversight," he argued, "it is legitimate for law-enforcement agencies to use DNA-profiling technology. But these uses can easily creep towards human-rights abuses."

A much broader array of stakeholders must engage with the problems that DNA databases present. In particular, governments, policymakers and legislators should tighten regulation and reduce the likelihood of corporations aiding potential human-rights abuses by selling DNA-profiling technology to bad actors — knowingly or negligently. Researchers working on biometric identification technologies should consider more deeply how their inventions could be used. And editors, reviewers and publishers must do more to ensure that published research on biometric identification has been done in an ethical way.

[…] Over the past eight years, three leading forensic genetics journals — International Journal of Legal Medicine (published by Springer Nature), and Forensic Science International and Forensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series (both published by Elsevier) — have published 40 articles co-authored by members of the Chinese police that describe the DNA profiling of Tibetans and Muslim minorities, including people from Xinjiang. I analysed 529 articles on forensic population genetics in Chinese populations, published between 2011 and 2018 in these journals and others. By my count, Uyghurs and Tibetans are 30–40 times more frequently studied than are people from Han communities, relative to the size of their populations (unpublished data). Half of the studies in my analysis had authors from the police force, military or judiciary. The involvement of such interests should raise red flags to reviewers and editors.

In short, the scientific community in general — and publishers in particular — need to unequivocally affirm that the Declaration of Helsinki (a set of ethical principles regarding human experimentation, developed for the medical community) applies to all biometric identification research (see go.nature.com/34bypbf). Unethical work that has been published in this terrain must be retracted. [Source]

Launching off from Moreau’s mention of Chinese genomics giant BGI, science writer Mara Hvistendahl recapped the company’s history and involvement in Xinjiang on Twitter, concluding that "BGI’s work in Xinjiang deserves a LOT more scrutiny."


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Netizen Voices: “Misogyny With Chinese Characteristics on the Diplomatic Stage”

At a December 3 English press conference in Beijing, in reply to an anonymous reporter’s question on U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments on the national security threat posed by Chinese tech firms, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying employed a literary reference that was likely lost on most of the reporters present:

Q: In an article carried by Politico, US Secretary of State Pompeo wrote that “it’s critical that European countries not give control of their critical infrastructure to Chinese tech giants like Huawei, or ZTE”, that Huawei “maintains links to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army”, is “implicated in espionage” in some countries and has “allegedly stolen intellectual property” from countries including Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom. Pompeo also claims that China’s National Intelligence Law makes clear that the Communist Party of China can force any 5G supplier headquartered in China to turn over data in secret. Do you have a response?

A: In New Year’s Sacrifice, a short story written by a famous Chinese writer Lu Xun, there is a figure known as Wife of Xianglin who keeps telling the same story time and again. Mr. Pompeo is behaving just like her. But unlike her harmless monologue, Mr. Pompeo keeps repeating poisonous lies.

He wrote that Huawei has “allegedly stolen intellectual property” from countries including Germany, Israel and the United Kingdom. We have been asking about this and the US has been shunning the question because it doesn’t have the answer. So far, not a single country, company or individual can present conclusive evidence to prove that Huawei poses a security threat. On the contrary, Der Tagesspiegel stated in May that after years of review, the UK government, Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security and the European Commission all failed to find any backdoor in Huawei. […] [Source]

The character she referenced, the Wife of Xianglin (祥林嫂, also commonly translated as “Aunt Xianglin” or “Xiang Lin’s wife”) comes from Lu Xun’s 1924 story The New Year’s Sacrifice (祝福). She is a mentally traumatized and tragic figure, one who served as a way for the author to criticize many outdated and inhumane customs of feudal society (in the story, the woman is never given a name of her own—she is referred to only as the wife of her deceased husband—itself a criticism of the status of women in old China, a genre of criticism that continues to resound in China today).

The literary figure may not have been the most appropriate analogy for Hua to use in her attack on Secretary Pompeo. Due to the obscurity of the reference and the lack of any follow-up questions from the press pool, at Quartz Jane Li provides literary context, and explains why some Chinese may have found offense in the reference:  

Aunt Xianglin is a character from “New Year’s Sacrifice” (祝福), a short story written in 1924 by Lu Xun, arguably the best-known modern Chinese writer. In the story, Aunt Xianglin, who is mentally challenged and works as a servant, is a widow of a young man who died of illness and works as a servant—she is never referred to by her own name in the story, only in relation to her first husband, Xianglin. She is later forced to re-marry by her mother-in-law for the dowry. The second husband also dies of illness, and their new-born son killed and eaten by wolves. Despite these unfortunate incidents, Xianglin presses on with life and returns to work as a servant. However, the family employing her believes she carries bad luck and forbids her from preparing the new year sacrifice, an important Chinese ritual for paying respect to ancestors. The incident breaks Aunt Xianglin, who later ends up begging on the streets, telling the same story repeatedly about her son’s death. She eventually dies quietly on a winter night.

[…[ Hua made the comments in response to a question raised by an unidentified journalist, who cited a Politico article that quoted Pompeo as saying European countries should not give control of their critical infrastructure to Chinese tech giants because of their close ties to Beijing, according to a transcript published by the foreign ministry. As one of the most hawkish US politicians on China, Pompeo often criticizes China on a range of issues including Hong Kong and Xinjiang, comparing China’s suppression of the Uyghur Muslims to East Germany for example.

By invoking Aunt Xianglin, Hua was resorting to deep-rooted tropes that are offensive to both women and mentally challenged people in order to denigrate Pompeo. “There is already lots of mockery of Aunt Xianglin in daily life. But somehow I feel sad to see her being made fun of like this on a national level,” said one user (link in Chinese) on social network Weibo. [Source]

While some netizens took issue with Hua’s choice, several official organizations and media took to Weibo to applaud the spokesperson’s “burn”:

[Beautiful Burn! Hua Chunying Says Pompeo Resembles Aunt Xianglin] U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo recently claimed that Huawei was suspected of conducting espionage in multiple countries, specifically mentioning intellectual property theft in Germany, England, and other countries. Hua Chunying’s response: “It seems to me, judging from Mr. Pompeo’s recent actions, he really resembles the Wife of Xiang Lin. The only difference is that Aunt Xianglin’s chatter was harmless nonsense. Pompeo’s rambling is all poisonous lies. [Chinese]

After seeing the official round of applause offered for this less than ideal literary reference, many netizens piled on, taking the opportunity to castigate Hua’s inappropriate use of a classic Lu Xun character, and her apparent misunderstanding of the archetype of Aunt Xianglin and the criticism that the author intended while penning her. CDT Chinese editors have archived a collection of netizen reactions, which are translated below:

**: Harmless “nonsense”? Aunt Xianglin spoke about her son’s tragic death and the tragedy she encountered in her life. How has that become nonsense? Mr. Lu Xun wrote the Aunt Xianglin character as a criticism of feudalistic morality and the cold ruthlessness of society at the time. Why is it that today we nevertheless have people publicly and voluntarily acting like those ruthless people who sent Aunt Xianglin to her death? I really don’t understand [Hua Chunying’s] comments.

**: Lu Xun wrote that Aunt Xianglin was met with tragedy; that she’s an unfortunate victim. The character was meant to expose those who harmed her. Now, it’s finally public officials’ turn to publicly humiliate Aunt Xianglin. Is it really a shameful thing to be a “Aunt Xianglin”?

********: Have you read this story? Wasn’t Aunt Xianglin’s predicament caused by the oppression suffered by women in Old China? [Hua Chunying’s comments] feel like they’re targeting women, do they not?

*********: So, let me get this straight. Being treated like livestock, being violently forced to sell your body, losing your son and your sanity, silently bereaving the loss of your son, and going through all the misfortune of women in Old China, in the end, you’re expected to just keep on blaming yourself. Even after experiencing the tremendous pain of losing your own son. “Oh, I’m so silly.” According to these officials, it would seem, [Aunt Xianglin’s] moans of agony are nothing but “harmless nonsense.” What “nonsense.” Lu Xun wrote to criticize the cannibalistic ruthlessness of old society, to reveal who the victims are, not to have you all humiliate her like those other characters in the story. But as it turns out, to this day, there are still people stepping on her misfortune, sucking on the blood of the vulnerable.

@***: Demonstrating Misogyny with Chinese Characteristics on the world diplomatic stage—what a Great Power Diplomatic Dream Team.

*********: This analogy doesn’t make sense. Lu Xun was satirizing the cold-blooded bystanders of old society. People really think this is a “good attack”? What kind of sub-standard news people are these? They should have just kept quiet and let this comment pass. A pile of official accounts embarrassing themselves over this, triumphantly offering their quips, thinking Americans don’t know about Aunt Xianglin… If Americans were to reference a character from American literature, would you understand? This is worth being “proud” over? If Americans really did understand Aunt Xianglin, what an embarrassment that would be for the country. Surely, there’s no glory in the cannibalism of old society, right?

*****: In China years ago, we learned to be sympathetic to the tragedies Aunt Xianglin encountered, to be critical of injustice. Now, [Aunt Xianglin] is analogous to brainlessness and nagging… Times really have changed.

**: The problem is, they don’t even know who Aunt Xianglin is. By her coming up with a diss like this, Americans would have to go searching through the Lu Xun classics [in order to even understand what she meant]!

尼****: Aunt Xianglin said her son was eaten by wolves. This is nonsense? Are you for real?!

******: It’s shocking that as a woman you would consider Aunt Xianglin a negative example. This isn’t some obscure literary character—this is an important piece of required reading for at least the last two generations. She is herself a symbol. She is not a negative character; she is a hardworking yet fragile woman oppressed by the society of Old China. The only people who would make fun of her would be [feudalistic] landlords and ignorant passersby. Could it be… that you’re surnamed Zhao?

S*******: Who would have thought? It hasn’t even been 100 years, and the Foreign Ministry and Communist Youth League are mocking Aunt Xianglin. They’ve forgotten she represents the hardship endured by countless women of the feudalistic era. Yes, she’s an angry woman, but there’s a reason for her anger. Where is this ridicule coming from? Is it just that we’re now in a different era, or is it feudalistic powers on the rise? One shouldn’t take oneself too lightly, nor speak improperly, lest you block the way of earnest advice.

****: Aunt Xianglin is a working class woman that endured hardship and suffering in old society. Invoking her name to insult others—wouldn’t that mean your views align with those who killed her?

**: A woman who endured great suffering in the old society, still now dishonored after her death by New China.

****: This is the most cold-blooded, most outrageous diplomatic statement I’ve ever heard.

*****: Those of you clapping your hands saying how great this is, are you not that group of people Lu Xun wrote about?

D*******: So this is how the government mocks working class people. Now I know.

A*********: I suggest she go back and read Lu Xun. [Aunt Xianglin] is a tragic character, discriminated against and extorted by old society. Have some sympathy and do some reflection. Now you’re using her to insult others—and you’re proud of it! Have some compassion for your own people.

N*********: Mocking Aunt Xianglin out in the open like this, you’ve forgotten your roots. You’ve forgotten that the power to govern was won through people sacrificing their lives—people who suffered such tragic fates in old society.

**: How laughable! Aunt Xianglin dared to fight against oppression, and she failed tragically. She was a vivacious person who ultimately came to such a tragic end… Now [her story] has a negative connotation? With comments like that, it’s like your nine years of compulsory education were all a joke.

*****Xiao*****: Aunt Xianglin was hounded to death by the “not even spitting out the bones” cannibalism of the feudalistic morality of old society. Now she’s being denigrated by the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman (a woman!!). “Harmless nonsense”—that’s what she’s calling [Aunt Xianglin’s] pain of losing her own son. You’d think under normal circumstances the Foreign Ministry would have to come out and apologize to the public, right? All those fanboys and girls at the front of the comments section talking about a “beautiful diss,” “mighty Sister Hua”… this is the most depressing thing I’ve seen all day. [Chinese]

Translation by Bluegill. 


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Uyghurs Speak Out About Camps at Risk of Death

Following months of reporting from news media and academic researchers on the extent and conditions of internment camps in Xinjiang, where up to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims have been held for political indoctrination, forced labor, and forced cultural assimilation, the Chinese government has now declared that inmates have “graduated,” without providing any evidence. From Yanan Wang at AP:

Shohrat Zakir, Xinjiang’s Uighur governor, made the remarks during a press briefing as part of a strident propaganda campaign launched following U.S. Congress’ approval last week of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act.

“When the lives of people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang were seriously threatened by terrorism, the U.S. turned a deaf ear,” Zakir said at a press briefing. “On the contrary, now that Xinjiang society is steadily developing and people of all ethnicities are living and working in peace, the U.S. feels uneasy, and attacks and smears Xinjiang.”

All those in the centers who were studying Mandarin Chinese, law, vocational skills and deradicalization have “graduated” and found stable employment, Zakir said, adding that others such as village officials, farmers and unemployed high school graduates continue to enroll on a rolling basis in programs that allow them to “come and go freely.”

Some ex-detainees have told AP they were forced to sign job contracts and barred from leaving factory grounds during weekdays, working long hours for low pay. Many Uighurs abroad also say their relatives are in prison, not camps, after being sentenced on vague charges of extremism. [Source]

A similar government announcement in July that “most” people held in camps had been released was also met with broad skepticism in the absence of any proof. Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy report further on responses to the most recent announcement:

Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch who has closely studied Xinjiang, said the party’s claims lacked credibility. “This comes from a government that pretty much lies about most reports coming from the region,” she said.

“If the Chinese government has indeed released people from the camps,” she added, “then it should allow independent observers, including from the United Nations, to enter the region without any kind of restrictions to see for themselves.”

[…] Legal experts have said that even under China’s sweeping powers of detention, there is no sound backing for the camps, which subject inmates to months or years of detention without trial or effective means of appeal. Last month, six experts and officials on United Nations human rights panels also criticized the regulations that China has cited to justify the mass detentions, saying that the rules were “incompatible with China’s obligations under international human rights law.” [Source]


The government has long defended the camps and called them “vocational training” facilities, despite reports that many of those detained are duly employed and highly educated already. Former detainees and their families have provided accounts of ideological indoctrination, forced labor, forced sterilization, and sexual abuse. Many Uyghurs have reported the disappearance of family members, including elderly parents. One such person is Ferkat Jawdat, a U.S. citizen who lives in Virginia, whose mother was put in a camp in 2018. Recently New York Times reporter Paul Mozur traveled to Xinjiang to meet her and hear about her experiences in the camps and upon her release. She recounts being interrogated, tortured, and denied critical medicine for high blood pressure. Authorities later threatened her with death if the audio of the interview was released.

Asiye Abdulaheb, a Uyghur woman living in the Netherlands, recently acknowledged that she had aided in the leak of a trove a government documents that was released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and that provided valuable information about the extent and aims of the camps. Like Ferkat Jawdat and his mother, she stated that going public was worth the risk to help the world understand the situation in Xinjiang. From Elian Peltier, Claire Moses and Edward Wong at The New York Times:

A Dutch newspaper, De Volkskrant, first reported on Ms. Abdulaheb’s role in the dissemination of that second set of documents, based on interviews with her and her ex-husband, Jasur Abibula. Both are Dutch citizens who have lived in the Netherlands since 2009, and they have a 6-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son.

Ms. Abdulaheb said in an hourlong interview in Mandarin Chinese with The Times that she had decided to speak out in the hopes that the publicity would dissuade the Chinese authorities from seeking to harm her or her family.

She said they already knew she had the documents, and she had told Dutch police officers about her situation. She added that the danger of her situation became evident after her husband returned from a trip to Dubai in mid-September during which Chinese security officers told him about the documents, interrogated him about Ms. Abdulaheb and tried to recruit him to spy on her.

[…] Ms. Abdulaheb said she felt relieved to have revealed her identity.

“I have told everything,” she said. “My mind is calm now.” [Source]

Since the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Uyghur Human Rights Bill last week, the Chinese government has escalated its attacks on critics on its policies in Xinjiang, lashing out at researchers who have documented the camps and calling them tools of the CIA.


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