2021-04-23 13:25:33 Xinjiang Surveillance Company Won Award At Amazon Event

Xinjiang Surveillance Company Won Award At Amazon Event

The executive onstage delivered his pitch with an Amazon logo behind him and luminaries from Shanghai’s thriving venture capital scene in front of him. Renwei Electronics, his company, assists Chinese authorities in tracking prisoners and detainees, alerting guards to their movements and even fitting them with heart rate monitors.

Renwei is deploying its “smart prison” system in China’s Xinjiang region, where over 1 million Muslim minorities have been imprisoned.

Nonetheless, Renwei received a warm welcome at an event cohosted by an Amazon-backed “joint innovation center” in November. The event organizers provided a platform for Renwei’s executive to deliver a “investor road show”–style speech to some of China’s most prestigious investors. Renwei also received a “product innovation award,” naming it one of six “outstanding entrepreneurial companies.”

Amazon declined to comment on the record despite being sent a detailed list of questions. Renwei did not respond to a comment request.

A growing number of multinational corporations are under pressure to shift their supply chains away from Xinjiang, citing mounting evidence of mass detention and forced labor as part of what the United States and other countries have recently labeled genocide. Congress is considering legislation to prohibit imports from Xinjiang that have been tainted by forced labor, and US customs has already prohibited products made in the region from tomatoes and cotton, among other things.

Amazon closed its e-commerce business in China in 2019, but other parts of its vast empire, including its highly profitable cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services, continue to serve Chinese customers.

AWS manages the joint innovation center in collaboration with the Shanghai government and business organizations. According to an event advertisement, the center helps startups by providing AWS cloud resources and tech support, as well as assisting them in acquiring talent and complying with government regulations. It’s unclear what, if any, benefits Renwei and other award winners received. According to the center’s website, the companies it supports benefit from Amazon’s resources and reputation.

Horizon Advisory, a geopolitical advisory firm based in Washington, DC, first mentioned Renwei’s award and the Amazon event in research shared with BuzzFeed News.

Renwei’s technology has been used in prisons throughout China, including Zhongjiazhuang Prison near Shihezi. The prison is run by the powerful Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary and governmental organization sanctioned by the US last year for its links to human rights violations in the region.

Using satellite imagery, BuzzFeed News located the prison in Xinjiang’s Shawan County. A 2016 official photo of the prison shows a rounded front gate with intricate ironwork and a lion statue to the left of the entrance. A road behind the gate leads up to a two- to three-story building. Along the road is a white wall and a row of trees. A Google Earth image shows the gate’s shadow on the ground, a light-colored object about 2.5 meters high that appears to be the lion statue, and the same east-west wall and tree line. The roof of the building in the background corresponds to the photograph as well.

In the last four years, the Chinese government has forced upwards of a million Muslim minorities, including Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui Muslims, and others, into mass internment camps. According to a BuzzFeed News investigation last year, the government has dramatically escalated its campaign since 2017, constructing hundreds of new compounds resembling internment camps and prisons. Dozens of former detainees described inside abuse, deprivation, and routine humiliation ranging from overcrowding and food deprivation to beatings and even torture. According to the government, the internment camp system is for “transformation through education” and deradicalization of extremists.

According to government data analyzed by the New York Times, Xinjiang’s prison population has also increased during this time — the region accounted for 21% of the country’s total arrests despite having only 2% of the population in 2017. Muslim minorities account for roughly half of the population in Xinjiang. According to government data, China’s Communist Party-controlled courts convict more than 99 percent of defendants.

Many prisons around the world, including the United States, use data-driven systems to monitor and control inmates. In Xinjiang, however, the government’s campaign specifically targets ethnic minorities by detaining them for religious practices, connections to family abroad, or other behavior deemed suspicious or dangerous to the state.

Renwei’s system is described as “an important platform for digital prisons to improve their management capabilities through information technology.” According to the company, it uses image processing, data encryption, cloud computing, and “big data” to set up a “personnel positioning system” that can be monitored remotely. The information is collected and routed through a centralized platform that authorities can use for “management decision-making.”

According to Renwei, this improves efficiency and allows prison staff to “achieve new ideas of preemptive prevention, mid-incident control, and post-incident verification.” Renwei claims that an early warning system alerts him when police are attacked or when detainees enter areas where they are not permitted. To “reduce the risk to law enforcement,” prisoners can be fitted with electronic devices that monitor their heart rates and other vital signs. According to Renwei, the system helps prevent people from fleeing or killing themselves.

Life in Xinjiang’s camps and prisons is characterized by high-tech surveillance. More than a dozen former detainees told BuzzFeed News that they were monitored in real time by cameras placed in the corners of their cells and even in the bathrooms. Guards could punish them for minor infractions such as speaking in their native language rather than Mandarin Chinese.

Renwei has also received recognition from the Ministry of Public Security, China’s domestic security service. The company was featured at a promotional conference for the ministry, which was attended by the department’s vice minister and other government officials.

According to a press release, the audience at the Nov. 16, 2020 Amazon event included executives from multinational conglomerates such as Siemens and Kone Elevators, in addition to Shanghai venture capitalists.

Onstage, the Renwei executive spent about 11 minutes going through a PowerPoint presentation that went over every aspect of the business, noting that the system could be used not only in prisons, but also in detention centers. Finally, he turned to the investors and asked for their questions. ●

20th of April, 2021, at 19:55 p.m.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated incorrectly that the Renwei executive on stage thanked the Shanghai-Amazon Joint Innovation Center for its assistance.

Source link

Other News

Subscribe to our World NEWS Letter

Xinjiang Surveillance Company Won Award At Amazon Event