Never Again: The UK’s Responsibility to Act on Atrocities in Xinjiang and Beyond Contents

5Technology and research

Box 12: Letter from a ‘re-educated’ relative

I will always follow the Party, I will always listen to the Party, I will be grateful to the Party and will act in a way that is beneficial to ethnic harmony and social stability. I am extremely proud to be a citizen of the People’s Republic of China!

Source: Confidential

53.Under Chinese government policy, Xinjiang has become a modern police state where advanced technology is deployed to support an unprecedented level of surveillance, invasion of privacy, and repression. Systems such as the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP) and the ‘Big Brother App’ therein demonstrate the potentially Orwellian use of new technologies. These systems collect Uyghurs’ biometric information, such as blood type and height, and monitor their every move for suspicious activity, which may involve actions as vague as “unusual electricity consumption”.94 We are alarmed by the reports that Uyghurs in the camps are restrained in chairs and subjected to experimental technologies, such as “emotion detection software”.95

54.We were further concerned to discover that there are substantial research connections between the Chinese organisations responsible for these crimes and UK universities.96 While we will be addressing wider questions around tech governance in our inquiry into tech and the future of UK foreign policy, the role of advanced technologies in the use of oppression in Xinjiang cannot be ignored. We are of the view that no UK company should be partnering with or investing in Chinese firms that provide technology for repression, nor should any UK universities engage in research collaboration with Chinese institutions suspected of being involved with Xinjiang or the Chinese government’s wider civil-military fusion doctrine.

55.Given that many forms of technology have the potential for both innocuous use and coercive use, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine which specific types of technology will be used for repression.97 We therefore believe that decisions about research collaborations should be made based on the history, affiliations, and independence of potential partner institutions. Where a Chinese institution possesses known or suspected links to repression in Xinjiang, or substantial connections to Chinese military research, UK universities should avoid any form of technological or research collaboration with them. They should also conduct urgent reviews of their current research partnerships, terminating them where involved parties are found or suspected to be complicit in the atrocities in Xinjiang.

56.We wrote to Manchester University to enquire about their research partnership with CETC, the Chinese firm largely responsible for developing the IJOP. We were surprised to learn that they were unaware of CETC’s reported complicity in the crimes in Xinjiang, despite the extensive and frequent reporting on this issue in the press and media. We welcomed the news that, following our interventions, Manchester University took steps to terminate its partnership with CETC.98 UK organisations—whether private companies or universities—should take much greater care in investigating those they work with.

Box 13: Letter from Martin Schröder, Vice President and Dean, University of Manchester

I also confirm that, as far as I am aware, the University had no prior knowledge of any credible reports stated in your letter, or from any other source, linking CETC’s technology with the persecution of Uyghur Muslims. Your letter is the first to do so.

Source: Correspondence with the University of Manchester, 14 January 2021 and 29 January 2021

57.To do this effectively, universities and other organisations will need Government support and assistance, primarily through the provision and dissemination of intelligence concerning Chinese organisations.99100 We recommend that the Government fund and manage the creation of a regularly-updated due diligence and intelligence database to provide universities with a directory of Chinese institutions and companies that possess strong or suspected connections to technology-aided human rights abuses. The FCDO should convene a panel to oversee and discuss due diligence, to include government officials and members of the academic community. This panel should use all means available to exert public pressure on institutions, ensuring compliance.

Box 14: Testimony from a Uyghur

Without any explanation at all, from 2015 onward, surveillance cameras were installed in our courtyard home’s gate and in its yard.

Source: Confidential

58.Cameras made by the Chinese firm Hikvision have been deployed throughout Xinjiang, and provide the primary camera technology used in the internment camps.101 Dr Samantha Hoffman of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and Dr Radomir Tylecote of Civitas shared their concern that facial recognition cameras made by companies such as Hikvision operating in the UK are collecting facial recognition data, which can then be used by the Chinese government. Dr Hoffman said that Hikvision cameras are operating “all over London”.102 Independent reports suggest that Hikvision cameras are operating throughout the UK in areas such as Kensington and Chelsea, Guildford, and Coventry, placed in leisure centres and even schools.103

59.Equipment manufactured by companies such as Hikvision and Dahua should not be permitted to operate within the UK. We recommend that the Government prohibits organisations and individuals in the UK from doing business with any companies known to be associated with the Xinjiang atrocities through the sanctions regime. The Government should prohibit UK firms and public sector bodies from conducting business with, investing in, or entering into partnerships with such Chinese firms, to ensure that UK companies do not provide either blueprints or financing for further technology-enabled human rights abuses.

94 Human Rights Watch, How Mass Surveillance Works in Xinjiang, China, accessed 2 May 2019

96 Q137 [Radomir Tylecote]

97 Q142 [Samantha Hoffman]

98 Correspondence with the University of Manchester, 14 January 2021 and 29 January 2021

99 Q138 [Samantha Hoffman]

101 Uyghur Human Rights Project (XIN0071) p 6

102 Q143 [Samantha Hoffman], Q154 [Samantha Hoffman], Q155 [Radomir Tylecote]

Published: 8 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement