China still finding outstretched Canadian palms when it comes to biometrics research
Canadian researchers are reportedly working with Chinese researchers tainted by military and government-repression campaigns.
Coverage by The Globe and Mail, Canada’s most widely read daily newspaper, indicates that two universities in Ontario have taken modest research grants from a Chinese voice biometrics company that is owned in part by the autocratic government.
Voice recognition in the wrong government hands can be an efficient tool to monitor political sentiment and identify dissidents.
IFlytek, the company in question, generally is considered a significant player in Beijing’s campaign to deculture China’s Muslim Uyghurs. The Uyghurs — perhaps a million of whom have been imprisoned in remote re-education camps — are viewed as a challenge to political orthodoxy and control.
Essentially, they have not assimilated sufficiently for government comfort, particularly after the spectacular rise in global terrorism culminating September 11, 2001, carried out by Muslim zealots against perceived Western cultural imperialism.
According to The Globe and Mail, iFlytek gave York University $1.5 million (US$1.24 million) in 2015 for the creation of the iFlytek Laboratory for Neural Computing and Machine Learning. For the grant, the biometrics firm also was given a chair at the Lassonde School of Engineering.
One professor at the laboratory allegedly works with China’s National University of Defence Technology, which for all intents and purposes is a part of the Chinese Communist Party.
IFlytek also awarded $727,000 in 2019 to Queen’s University to create learning models that detect and process speech.
York and Queen’s are two of a shadowy network of universities in Canada and elsewhere ignoring government qualms about taking money and teaming with Chinese biometrics specialists. The University of Alberta is another.
A spokesman for York university reportedly defended its acceptance of money with iFlytek and working with its scientists on new technology by saying the work was completed in 2020, and that all intellectual property resulting from the grant is in the public domain.
A Queen’s spokesman took a similar tack, saying the work is “essentially” done, according to the article. He also said trans-national research is important for science and for Queen’s.
He went on to say, however, that school administrators would work with Canada’s federal government to make sure researchers can work with Chinese counterparts and companies “safely,” according to the article.