How AI-based surveillance cameras are racially targeting Uyghur Muslims

How AI-based surveillance cameras are racially targeting Uyghur Muslims

Chinese treatment of the Uyghurs is well known. Over 1 million Uyghurs, who are the Muslim minorities, have now been in concentration camps which are euphemistically called “re-education camps”.  China has built a powerful surveillance state in that region.

Now, interestingly Saudi Arabia, Russia, and 35 other nations have supported China’s policies in Xinjiang province against the Uyghurs.

AI-backed camera technology to identify the Uyghurs

In a remarkable expose, the world’s leading expert on video surveillance, IPVM, has shown how China may actually be using Artificial Intelligence video surveillance techniques to identify its Uyghur minority.

Hikvision,a camera and video company is marketing an AI camera, an archive of the old version of its product page, which now has been changed.  This is the part of the product features that are most interesting:

Uyghur Muslims

This translates to the following using the google translate.

Support the gender attributes (male, female) of the analyst’s target, support the racial attributes of the analyst’s target (such as Uighur, Han) and ethnic color attributes (such as white, yellow, black); support analysts whether to wear glasses, whether or not Wear a mask, wear a hat, or have a beard, and the recognition accuracy is not less than 90%.

Now, Han racial people comprise 90% of China’s population.  They are whom we always call the Chinese.  But there are over 56 ethnic minorities.  Uyghurs are a racial and religious minority who live in Xinjiang region.

Indications were already there

New York Times had reported on the practice of the Chinese to distinguish Uyghurs via AI-backed racial profiling surveillance mechanisms.  They called it automated racism.

Now, documents and interviews show that the authorities are also using a vast, secret system of advanced facial recognition technology to track and control the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority. It is the first known example of a government intentionally using artificial intelligence for racial profiling, experts said.
The facial recognition technology, which is integrated into China’s rapidly expanding networks of surveillance cameras, looks exclusively for Uighurs based on their appearance and keeps records of their comings and goings for search and review. The practice makes China a pioneer in applying next-generation technology to watch its people, potentially ushering in a new era of automated racism.

In 2018, the same Hikvision company had inadvertently demonstrated their AI cloud system and as part of a case study of Mount Tai Tourist Area – they had mentioned how the system was adept at differentiating the ethnic minorities.  The demo of “Minority analytics” clearly showed the direction in which China was moving too.

Uyghur analytics

Despite taking out the video at that time in order to cover up, the work to target the Uyghurs via video surveillance has continued.


It is remarkable to what lengths, even the private companies go to in order to help the Chinese companies achieve their goals of targeting the minorities.

With AI-backed surveillance cameras installed all over their cities and towns, the Chinese authorities have another weapon to ‘manage’ their minorities and other groups.

While China backs Pakistan and other Islamic countries, it keeps treating its own Uyghur Muslims worse than human beings.

Featured Image: Flickr

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