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China’s Huawei backtracks after filing for patent to identify Uyghurs

Chinese technology firm Huawei has backtracked on a patent application it filed for a facial recognition system meant to identify Uyghurs in China. According to a report by CNN, Huawei had filed a patent application saying “identification of pedestrian attributes is very important” in facial recognition technology.

It also said, “The attributes of the target object can be gender (male, female), age (such as teenagers, middle-aged, old) [or] race (Han, Uyghur).”

However, the company in its attempt to make “amends” has said that the ethnicity identification feature should “never have become part of the application,” a Huawei spokesperson told CNN Business.

“Huawei opposes discrimination of all types, including the use of technology to carry out ethnic discrimination,” the spokesperson said while adding, “We are continuously working to ensure new and evolving technology is developed and applied with the utmost care and integrity.”

In December last year, a revelation of Huawei’s role in testing artificial intelligence surveillance technology, which includes a face-scanning camera system that can send an “Uyghur alarm” to police after detecting a member of the group, sparked an international outcry against one of China’s most valuable tech companies.

Washington Post reported that despite the company’s claims that it is committed to human rights at the highest level, Huawei has worked with dozens of security contractors to develop surveillance products, some of which are said to be able to identify a person’s ethnicity and help suppress potential protests, according to company marketing documents.

Huawei and its partners have provided some of the surveillance products to authorities in China’s Xinjiang region, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) have detained thousands of Uyghur Muslims, in an attempt to control and assimilate the ethnic minority group through a mass ‘re-education’ campaign.

Among the surveillance products was a facial recognition system used by police in the Xinjiang capital, Urumqi, and a highway surveillance camera system for the region, according to documents from Huawei’s website.

Classified documents known as the China Cables, accessed last year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, threw light on how the Chinese government uses technology to control Uyghur Muslims worldwide.

However, China regularly denies such mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training, while people in the internment camps have described being subjected to forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and denial of food and medicine, and say they have been prohibited from practising their religion or speaking their language. ANI

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