Canadian Universities Complicit in Atrocity Crimes Against Uyghur MuslimsWritten by Justice for All Canada
May 29th, 2021
Ontario’s education institutes should not be complicit in the repression of Uighur Muslims and Turkic minorities in Xinjiang. According to the Globe and Mail, both York and Queen universities have previously worked with a Chinese artificial intelligence company blacklisted by the US government and condemned by Human Rights Watch. This large tech company, called iFlytek, is building a national voice recognition system to monitor populations in Xinjiang:
- In 2016, an iFlytek subsidiary supplied 25 “voiceprint” collection systems to police in Kashgar (city in Xinjiang)
- Another iFlytek subsidiary signed a “strategic cooperation framework agreement” with the Xinjiang Prison Administration office
- iFlytek’s technology has been used in criminal investigations, indictments and trials by more than 400 courts and 200 prosecutor offices around China
In 2020, York and Queens completed a five-year contract with iFlyTek, knowing full well it supplies voice pattern collection systems to Xinjiang police. There is also concern that York’s iFlytek lab collaborates with Chinese military scientists at China’s National University of Defense Technology.
The totalitarian determination of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) abuses Uighur human rights on an unprecedented scale, simply because of their religious, cultural or political views:
- 63% of all Uighurs (7.5 million out of 12 million of the total population) are subjected to direct surveillance and control
- Uighurs outside this system are still subject to extraordinary scrutiny. Their blood is drawn for DNA, their faces scanned, voices recorded, and fingerprints taken by authorities
- Security posts are installed 500 metres apart, Uighur cars must be fitted with tracking devices, and spyware application must be installed on their devices
These activities in Xinjiang are a concerted campaign of coerced sociocultural re-engineering to track and repress religious and ethnic minorities. Ontario’s universities have helped accomplish this by accepting and defending the respective $1.5M and $727,000 “gifts” used to create an iFlytek laboratory at York and develop speech models at Queens.
Multiple research and human rights agencies have proven that iFlytek facilitates a massive surveillance scheme that violates privacy and threatens the safety of millions of Uighur and Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, China. The US State Department previously sanctioned iFlytek and determined that it uses its tools for surveillance and human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Approximately 63% of all Uighurs are subjected to direct surveillance and control. 3 million are detained in concentration camps, causing around 500,000 children to be taken to orphanages. Uighurs—a threatened minority in Northeast China—are subjected to extraordinary scrutiny and atrocity crimes. iFlytek has a close relationship with the Chinese Communist Party, helping the Ministry of Public Security create a national voice pattern database.
Last year, US-based nonprofit Justice For All successfully advocated for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to sever its contract with iFlytek. In a similar agreement, MIT was helping 3 major Chinese companies develop technologies used by the Chinese regime against civilians. In collaboration with iFlytek, SenseTime and Huawei, MIT was helping create a surveillance state unlike any the world has seen.
Because of China’s history of unchecked surveillance and retaliation, authorities can easily misuse such personal data. Through companies like iFlytek, the Chinese government have put Uighurs through biometric technology policies to strengthen mass surveillance and social control over them:
- Everyday, their blood is drawn for DNA, their faces scanned, voices recorded, and fingerprints taken by authorities
- Children are interrogated, neighbours become informants, and places of worship are monitored
- Cameras are everywhere and security posts installed literally 500 metres apart in Xinjiang’s cities
- Each Uighur car must be fitted with tracking devices
- Uighurs must install a spyware application on their devices
Justice For All Canada urges those responsible at York and Queens to investigate any professors, staff or faculty members working with China’s National University of Defence Technology, as revealed by the Globe. This is a central military research institute that sits under the leadership of the Central Military Commission for the government.
“We’re in disbelief that two of Canada’s top universities have accepted money from this dangerous tech firm. This is a genocidal attack on individual Uighur rights and liberties. We are disappointed that York University and Queen University, through a 5-year contract, did not consider iFlytek’s harmful relationship with the Chinese government,” said Taha Ghayyur, Executive Director at Justice For All Canada.
Canadian researchers should never partner with Chinese institutes linked to the repression of Uighur minorities. Universities must investigate Chinese-funded campus initiatives that may be linked to the CCP’s surveillance policies. “This kind of involvement violates the human rights of Uighurs,” stated Ghayyur. “With this in mind, we urge York University to confirm the status of its iFlytek Laboratory (iNCML), and reassess its activities,” he added.
Universities Canada, the organization representing university interests at the federal level, should also mandate all schools to review their research and innovation departments, and press for the shut-down of any CCP-funded initiatives.
“Universities must undertake maximum efforts to deliver transparency. We await assurance AI programs in York and Queens aren’t benefiting from their prior relationship with iFlytek. Lastly, any technology intended for genocide shouldn’t be exported outside of Canada,” said Ghayyur.
Canadians everywhere will support a resolution that prioritizes the human rights of global persecuted communities, such as the Uighurs.