Chinese Surveillance Group Hikvision Accused of Spying on Muslim Ramadan Observers
A Report Reveals the Plot During Ramadan
The United States-based research group IPVM has accused Chinese video surveillance equipment company Hikvision of engaging in a contract to develop technology that can identify Muslim students who were fasting during Ramadan, based on their dining records.
Hikvision used its LinkedIn page to confirm it had won a tender for the project, but denied its products can analyze video streams to identify ethnic minorities.
Research conducted in 2022 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists found that advanced Chinese surveillance programs had driven the potential to oppress the Uighur Turkish minority in China.
In response to the allegations, Hikvision stated: "this project never engaged in the development and deployment of the referenced features." The company also mentioned that it would be reaching out to provide clarification on the matter. However, it did not specify who it would be contacting.
Despite Hikvision's denial, a government announcement revealed that the Chinese surveillance equipment maker was required to meet the tender requirements without exception. The $9 million contract focused on the first phase of a "Smart Campus" system for Minjiang University in the Fujian province. The completion of the contract was celebrated by the university in December 2022.
IPVM discovered within the 600-page tender document an outline of a system called the "Assisted Analysis Of Ethnic Minority Students." This system is intended to support administrators' decision-making and includes a feature that alerts administration to students suspected of fasting during Ramadan.
Furthermore, the Minjiang University smart campus project tracks and provides school management with extensive information on an individual's daily habits and life, according to the tender. This includes details on book borrowing, holiday destinations, passport use, student club activities, information about family members, and an individual's application for membership to the Chinese Communist Party.
While the reasons for observing fasting during Ramadan may vary, Beijing's repression of Muslims raises suspicions that Chinese authorities are using surveillance technology to target and monitor ethnic minorities. The accusations against Hikvision highlight the ongoing concerns surrounding privacy and surveillance practices in China.
It remains to be seen how Hikvision will address the allegations and provide clarification on the matter. As the controversy unfolds, the focus on the intersection of technology, privacy, and human rights continues to grow. The use of surveillance technology to target specific ethnic or religious groups raises serious ethical questions that demand further scrutiny and accountability.
In an increasingly connected world, the delicate balance between security and privacy becomes more critical. As governments and corporations navigate the complex landscape of surveillance technology, it is essential to ensure that individuals' fundamental rights and freedoms are protected. The allegations against Hikvision serve as a reminder of the ongoing challenges that arise in this evolving digital age.