China Government Spreads Uyghur Analytics Across ChinaBy: Charles Rollet, Published on Nov 25, 2019
IPVM has found 12 recent government projects across China (PRC) that require Uyghur analytics and a general government guideline requiring such analytics.
This exposes that Uyghur persecution and discrimination goes far beyond Xinjiang and is being built on video surveillance technologies.
Requiring Uyghur Analytics
IPVM found evidence these analytics are centrally planned by the PRC government (which plays a far more active role setting domestic video surveillance standards than its counterparts in the West).
This was included in China's top police authority, the Ministry of Public Security's draft facial recognition guidelines in December 2017:
The draft guidelines include Uyghur analytics:
While IPVM could not find the final version (a common issue with PRC records), we found numerous government projects after this draft was released, implementing this requirement.
12 PRC Ughur Analytics Projects
As the animated map below shows, in the last 2 years, PRC government projects mandating Uyghur analytics have spread across the country:
Here is the full list of PRC government projects requiring Uyghur analytics:
- Gansu Province. Public Security Video Structured Processing Software and Hardware Project. Purchaser: Gansu Provincial Public Security Department. (项目名称：公安视频结构化处理软硬件项目. 采 购 人：甘肃省公安厅) January 2018.
Nan'an district, Chongqing. Network application of public security video surveillance construction in Nan'an District (南岸区公共安全视频监控建设联网应用.)
Purchaser: Chongqing Municipal Public Security Bureau and Nan'an District Bureau. August 2018.
Jinyun County, Zhejiang province. Video surveillance system purchasing project (视频监控系统租赁服务政府采购项目.)
Purchasing Agency: Jinyun County Public Resource Trading Center. September 2018.
Jingbian County, Shaanxi Province. Jingbian County Public Security Bureau equipment purchase. (
靖边县公安局采购2018年第一批中省转移支付自定装备项目公开 招标文件). December 2018.
- Beijing, Chaoyang District. Public Security Video Surveillance Construction Network. (朝阳区公共安全视频监控建设联网) Tenderer: Chaoyang Branch PSB. December 2018.
- Lankao County, Henan province. Lankao County public safety video surveillance construction network. 兰考县公共安全视频监控建设联网应用工程项目建设概算清单. Exact date unclear; first uploaded online April 2019.
- Huaiyuan County, Anhui province. Huaiyuan County Social Security Video Surveillance System Portrait Recognition System Expansion Project (怀远县社会治安视频监控系统人像识别系统扩容项目). Huaiyuan County Public Security Bureau. April 2019.
- Yongtai County. Fujian Provincial Government Procurement. Yongtai County Phase 7 (350 Channel) HD Video Surveillance System Construction Project. (永泰县第七期（350路）高清视频监控系统建设项目). Purchaser: Yongtai County Public Security Bureau. June 2019.
Zibo City. Zibo City Public Security Bureau (Linyi Branch) Video Analysis (淄博市公安局临淄分局视频解析平台采购需求方案).
Purchaser: Linbo Branch of Zibo City Public Security Bureau. July 2019.
- Yanghe New District, Suqian City, Jiangsu province. Yanghe New District community intelligent transformation project (洋河新区老旧小区智能化改造项目.) Jingbian County Public Security Bureau. September 2019.
- Yulin, Guangxi province. Face Recognition and Analysis System Project. (人脸识别及分析系统项目). Purchaser: Yulin Intermediate People's Court. September 2019.
- Qingdao City. Qingdao Municipal Government Procurement security system construction. (青岛市政府采购 武警青岛支队执勤七中队“智慧磐石”执勤安保系统建设 项目 二次招标). October 2019.
Here are three examples:
Yulin City project calls out Uighur, Han:
Suqian City project calls out Uighurs:
Gansu Province project calls out Han and Uyghur:
More Projects Almost Certain
Almost certainly, there are even more than these 12 projects as limitations exist in how many projects and how long project RFP documents are publicly available. While we cannot determine the total number of projects, the range of locations and the sheer number of projects in such a short period of time show this is a clear trend across the PRC.
Adding to the fundamental concern of doing such ethnic profiling is the risk of errors. Indeed, the 2017 draft government guidelines only required 70% accuracy, as the excerpt below shows:
Based on our general AI testing, we anticipate there will be serious accuracy issues. It is one thing to automate glasses detection, for example, since it is based on a well-defined location for a specific attribute. By contrast, even gender identification is notoriously error-prone across AI providers. We would expect similar (or worse) issues with Uyghur detection as it relies on subtle, hard to distinguish, unreliable facial differences, made worse by video capture challenges.
Ethnicity Analytics in China
One aspect of this crackdown is Uyghur analytics: AI programs that allow police to automatically pick out Uyghurs in video surveillance footage. These analytics were first described in detail by the New York Times in April as "ushering in a new era of automated racism".
Suppliers of Uyghur Analytics
The RFPs show Uyghur analytics is a significant and growing business inside the PRC. What is not clear from these documents is who is providing these analytics.
Earlier this month, Hikvision deleted a Uyghur-detecting AI camera advertised on its China website after IPVM inquired about it.
Earlier in 2019, the New York Times identified several companies aside from Hikvision who have developed and advertised Uyghur analytics in China: Sensetime, Megvii, Yitu, and Cloudwalk. All of these firms, except for Cloudwalk, were sanctioned last month for complicity in human rights abuses.
The rapidly expanding market for this PRC government-driven requirement raises serious ethical issues. This use of video surveillance and AI technology to conduct widespread ethnic / racial profiling is unprecedented globally.
While this is a growing source of profit for video surveillance manufacturers, including the industry's largest PRC manufacturers, it is also a growing source of both human rights concerns and rising protests as the public increasingly sees surveillance technology being abused.