Punishing Journalists PRC Province's Latest Mass Surveillance Project, Won by Neusoft Powered By Huawei

Published Nov 29, 2021 15:00 PM
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A PRC province awarded a surveillance project that specifies tracking foreign journalists, foreign students, and migrant women, as well as tracking individuals by ethnicity, including Uyghurs. A PRC publicly traded company Neusoft won the project, that specifies using Huawei cloud software.

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The surveillance project, which is unlike anything IPVM has previously encountered, targets journalists in a deliberate and calculated manner. Specifically, the system is designed to tag journalists for “处置” (in Chinese, this phrase is typically used in the context of dealing with or punishing individuals) based on PRC authorities' opinion of the risk they pose to the state.

The PRC has a history of detaining and punishing journalists, but this material illustrates the first known instance of the PRC building custom security technology to streamline state suppression of the press.

IPVM reported this story with Reuters, which published an investigation based on IPVM's findings (SEE: Chinese province targets journalists, foreign students with planned new surveillance system).

Project Overview

Henan Province's Public Security Department issued a 190-page tender on July 29th, 2021, seeking a security system to track and monitor the whereabouts of 'concerned' persons throughout the province, which has a population of ~99 million. This comes days after foreign journalists being harassed for coverage of the Henan floods and the Foreign Correspondents' Club of China stating:

Rhetoric from organizations affiliated with China’s ruling Communist Party directly endangers the physical safety of foreign journalists in China and hinders free reporting.

Neusoft was awarded the project on September 16th, 2021.

Tender Removed

After IPVM and Reuters contacted PRC officials, Henan removed the tender, shown below:

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IPVM expected this and archived the tender, accessible here. PRC officials did not otherwise respond to IPVM nor Reuters.

Specifies Physical Intervention Against Journalists

For journalists, the document calls for “处置” as an outcome of the assessment / judgment of authorities. In Chinese, this phrase means to “deal with” or “punish”. The Henan document, therefore, shows the PRC's plans to use physical force on journalists.

The project calls for a data library of foreign journalists, as noted in this diagram of the data architecture:

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The libraries are expected to be updated and maintained by PRC authorities.

Stop Light Warning System for Journalists

While the system is designed for customization, journalists are singled out and detailed extensively as individuals to alert authorities and monitor. In fact, data libraries are sorted and segmented to label journalists as – “Red”, “Yellow”, or “Green”.

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The system can alarm on journalists based on a number of factors, including their reason for travel, nature of reporting, and travel destination.

Huawei Cloud / FusionInsight and One Person One File

Huawei Cloud services and Huawei's FusionInsight are specified in the document as "key technology" to operate the surveillance system. Huawei describes FusionInsight on its website:

Extracting Value from Massive Data to Accelerate Intelligent Transformation

Furthermore, the document details the use of "one person, one file", AI technology that uses real-time video surveillance analysis linked to extensive databases of individuals' attributes.

Such technology was patented by Huawei in 2020, where it described obtaining one file per person as an urgent problem:

With the popularization of facial recognition, a large amount of face capture data is generated, for example, a mid-level city with 20,000 cameras, the number of face captures per year is in the order of 100 billion. As more smart cameras become popular in the future, the number of face images captured in a year will evolve to trillions, so how to archive these face image data and get one file per person becomes an urgent problem.

IPVM obtained Huawei documents that highlight 'one person, one file' as a security solution for PRC government use.

In a whitepaper titled Huawei Smart Security Open Architecture, 'one person, one file' is highlighted as an available application in a diagram under the section labelled "智能视频云平台" or "Intelligent Video Cloud Platform". The diagram also highlights GA/T1400, the PRC's national standard for "public security video image information application systems".

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In a separate Huawei document, 'one person, one file' is listed as an available AI application for security purposes:

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Huawei: "No knowledge" of Project, Denies Products Target Groups

In a statement to IPVM, a Huawei spokesperson claimed "no knowledge" of the Henan security project and reinforced that the company follows industry standards and does not develop/sell products to target individual groups of people:

Huawei has no knowledge of the project mentioned in the IPVM report. Like all other major service providers, Huawei provides cloud platform services that comply with common industry standards. Huawei does not develop or sell systems that target any specific group of people and we require all of our 31,000 partners comply with all applicable laws, regulations, and business ethics.

In December 2020, IPVM reported how Huawei and Megvii worked together to test and validate Uyghur alarms, according to a Huawei "interoperability report" found by IPVM.

IPVM responded to Huawei, asking now that Huawei is aware of the Henan project, do they intend to do anything. A Huawei spokesperson responded, stating:

We don’t have further comment for now, I will let you know if that changes.

IPVM will update this report if Huawei responds.

Customizable For PRC Authorities

The security project is designed to allow PRC authorities to create tags and warnings for virtually any scenario that links to data on individuals. For example, the project notes these tags:

  • Ethnicity - Han / Uyghur
  • Behavioral attributes - like frequenting bars
  • Profession / job
  • Community groups / affiliations
  • Age / gender
  • Physical attributes - such as wearing glasses

Neusoft Awarded Contract

A publicly traded China technology company, Neusoft, was awarded the contract on September 16th, 2021.

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IPVM contacted Neusoft multiple times over the course of a week but did not receive a response.

Wikipedia describes Neusoft:

The company was founded in 1991 and, as of 2020, is the largest China-based company providing IT services[4] and, as of 2012, the largest software outsourcing firm in China.[5] Neusoft has subsidiaries in United States (Livonia, Michigan, Santa Clara, California, Morrisville, North Carolina), Japan (Tokyo), Switzerland (Appenzell), Germany (Hamburg, Munich) and Romania (Cluj-Napoca).

Human Rights Watch Questions Use / PRC No Response

In a statement to IPVM, Human Rights Watch China Director, Sophie Richardson, challenged why companies and governments would use such technology to monitor minority groups and journalists:

The use of surveillance technology, including tools like video feeds, should be governed by the principles of necessity, legitimacy, and proportionality. So it is incumbent on these—and any—companies and governments to explain why it is essential to use such tools, explain how the data collection connects to a clear and publicly agreed-upon purpose, and how such action is commensurate with a threat. In this case, it is difficult to see how the use of this technology meets any of those criteria: are these journalist, foreign women and students, and Uyghurs behaving in ways that require such scrutiny? We are skeptical.

IPVM contacted the PRC's Ministry of Foreign Affairs multiple times but received no response.


When PRC authorities prevent journalists from reporting news, the ability to bring abuses to the forefront is greatly diminished. IPVM has reported extensively on how similar technology is used by PRC authorities to track and monitor Uyghurs. Targeting minority groups or vulnerable populations with security technology is unethical and should end. This project reveals the extent to which the PRC will go to ensure it continues.

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