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Nvidia and Hikvision under fire for Uyghur surveillance in China

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Major technology companies like Hikvision and Nvidia are helping China to suppress its Uyghur population by selling surveillance technologies to the communist regime.

A recent report by physical security monitoring organisation IPVM revealed that Chinese video surveillance equipment manufacturer, Hikvision, received $6 million from the Chinese government to provide a technology capable of identifying members of the Uyghur ethnic minority.

The contract between Hikvision and the Chinese government was obtained by IPVM, shedding light on the ongoing persecution of the Uyghurs and the involvement of Hikvision in providing software used in human rights abuse.

The Chinese government views the Uyghurs as a threat due to their beliefs and affiliation with Central Asian cultures, which is considered a challenge to Chinese sovereignty. Human rights groups have reported extensive surveillance, incarceration, forced labour, re-education programs to abandon cultural practices and beliefs, and even sterilisation campaigns against the Uyghur population.

Hikvision’s involvement in the project has been contentious, with the company earning a place on the US blacklist in 2019 for its alleged complicity in Beijing’s suppression of the Uyghurs. Hikvision has denied knowingly participating in human rights abuses.

Nvidia, a technology vendor, was also mentioned in the contract, but the company stated that it hadn’t sold equipment to Hikvision since 2019 and is not participating in the project. However, the contract shows the inclusion of a server with at least eight Nvidia T4 GPUs, a brand reportedly preferred by Hikvision.

“We aren’t participating in this project and aren’t aware of any Nvidia customer supplying it,” an Nvidia spokesperson told The Register. “Our customers are aware that they aren’t allowed to ship products violating the law or our policies.”

The contract, dated December 2022, outlines the installation of 210 Hikvision cameras, drones, routers and camera poles within three months. It specifies using Hikvision’s DS-IF0100-AI full analysis software, which supports facial, video and human body analysis. Additionally, the software includes analytics services to categorise individuals into unknown, non-minority, or Uyghur.

Leaked photos of the Chinese concentration camps for keeping and brainwashing Uyghurs.

IPVM’s investigation has uncovered China’s extensive facial recognition networks that monitor the lives of Uyghurs nationwide, contributing to their mass imprisonment and repression. Hikvision and Beijing have previously denied any involvement in human rights violations.

If we believe that Nvidia is telling the truth, this suggests that China may be using recycled chips or sourcing the chips from third parties. The deployment location of the surveillance systems is Chengmai County, Hainan Province, approximately 1,800 miles from Xinjiang Province, where most of the Uyghur-focused efforts have been concentrated.

In 2021, China commissioned a surveillance network to track journalists and international students in the Henan province. In May last year, several pictures were leaked showing China’s Uyghur concentration camps.

China is already on the way to turning a dystopian nightmare with its Great Firewall project, thousands of surveillance cameras, book bans, and face recognition tech on each nook and corner, among others.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here:

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