TikTok owner, Huawei helping China's campaign to repress Uighur Muslims: Report

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TikTok owner, Huawei helping China's campaign to repress Uighur Muslims: Report
TikTok owner, Huawei helping China's campaign to repress Uighur Muslims: Report

Beijing : Chinese tech giants including ByteDance, TikTok's parent company, and Huawei Technologies have been found working closely with the Communist Party to censor and surveil Uighur Muslims in China's western region of Xinjiang, according to a report published Thursday. 

The new evidence of links between the security apparatus and China's biggest tech companies have come to lights just days after TikTok shut down the account of an American teenager who'd sought to highlight China's human rights abuses in Xinjiang during what began as a make-up video.

After facing huge criticism for deactivating his account, the TikTok reactivated 17-year-old New Jersey high school junior Feroza Aziz's account.

In a released detailed report, experts at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's International Cyber Policy Centre have found that several Chinese tech companies "are engaged in deeply unethical behaviour in Xinjiang, where their work directly supports and enables mass human rights abuses."

"Some of these companies lead the world in cutting-edge technology development, particularly in the AI and surveillance sectors," Fergus Ryan, Danielle Cave and Vicky Xiuzhong Xu write in the report. "But this technology development is focused on servicing authoritarian needs, and as these companies go global (an expansion often funded by [Chinese] loans and aid) this technology is going global as well."

Some members of Congress have asked American intelligence services to keep a toght eye on TikTok and find out if it poses any national security risk.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has blacklisted Huawei, concerned that the Chinese government will have access to information that passes through its new 5G technology.

A NDTV report said that ByteDance did not respond to request for comment on the report's findings Thursday afternoon.

The report said the company has been "collaborating" with the Chinese government to disseminate its propaganda about Xinjiang.

Xinjiang Internet Police began working with Douyin, the local version of TikTok, last year and built a "new public security and Internet social governance model" in 2018. Then in April, the Ministry of Public Security's Press and Publicity Bureau signed a strategic cooperation agreement with ByteDance to promote the "influence and credibility" of police departments nationwide, the ASPI experts said.

The agreement also reportedly says ByteDance will increase its offline cooperation with the police department, although the details of this cooperation are not clear.

ByteDance spokeswoman Anna Wang said that security services can open accounts on its social media apps, but that ByteDance "does not produce, operate or disseminate any products or services related to surveillance."

"Douyin allows individuals, organisations and institutions, including civic and law enforcement groups, to set up user accounts," she said. "This practice is comparable to how social media platforms in other countries allow similar organisations, including law enforcement, to create accounts for purposes such as crime prevention alerts."