An Unplanned, Ad-Hoc Collaboration Reveals The On-The-Ground Truth About China's Internment Camps For Uyghurs
from the name-that-surveillance-camera dept
The US, UK and Australia have all announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The reason given for the move is because of human rights abuses in China, particularly in the turkic-speaking region of Xinjiang. Techdirt has been writing about the Chinese authorities’ use of technology to censor and carry out surveillance on the local Uyghur population, among others, for some years. One of the most controversial aspects of China’s policy in the region is the use of huge detention camps. According to the authorities there, these camps are for educational and vocational training. Human rights organizations call them internment camps; some governments speak of “genocide” against the Uyghurs.
Given the highly sensitive nature of the topic, it is naturally hard to ascertain what is really happening in these camps. One solution is to use satellite imagery to peek inside China’s tightly-controlled borders. Perhaps the best-researched investigation using this technique appeared on BuzzFeed News last year. The main article, and the four follow-ups, revealed the hitherto unknown scale of the internment camps, but were necessarily limited by their use of an extreme physical viewpoint — the view from space.
A Chinese travel blogger going by the name of Guanguan decided to investigate on the ground some of the camps located by BuzzFeed News, by driving to them. The remarkable 20-minute video summary of his travels provides unique views of the camps, which complement the satellite imagery used by BuzzFeed News. Specifically, they show in some detail side-views of the camps. This allows Guanguan to make reasonable guesses about which camps are indeed for education and training of some kind, and which ones are likely to be high-security internment camps.
The video is well-worth watching in its entirely, since it provides probably our best glimpse yet of the reality of China’s internment camps for Uyghurs and others (wisely, Guanguan seems to be out of China now). In fact, the quality of the video images is such that IPVM, which specializes in covering the world of video surveillance, was able to recognize several of the security cameras used at the internment camps. There are a few cameras from the Chinese company Dahua Technology, but the majority identified come from Hikvision. This, Techdirt readers will recall, is the company whose director of cybersecurity and privacy said that IoT devices with backdoors “can’t be used to spy on companies, individuals, or nations.” IPVM reported that Hikvision “declined to comment” on these latest findings. Its article noted that the visual evidence of Hikvision cameras being used in multiple internment camps, the result of an interesting unplanned, ad-hoc collaboration between Western journalists and a Chinese video blogger, is likely to make things even worse for a company already blacklisted by the US government.