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A UK regulator and former Chinese prisoner speak out on autocratic biometric surveillance

A UK regulator and former Chinese prisoner speak out on autocratic biometric surveillance
 

Days after the United Kingdom’s biometrics surveillance regulator asked a Chinese camera maker to publicly clarify its participation in the Uyghur genocide, a U.S. tech publication is quoting an alleged victim of that effort.

Fraser Sampson, the UK’s Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, on April 11 posted a letter asking Dahua Technology‘s marketing director about allegations against the company.

In the note, Sampson asks Michael Lawrence (whose email address is included) to refute evidence gathered by the United Kingdom that Dahua allegedly is supplying facial recognition equipment to Beijing for ongoing systematic human rights violations.

Those violations include the use of facial recognition systems to capture and imprison a million or more Uyghurs and other perceived threats to China‘s autocratic Communist Party.

According to the communication, Lawrence had contacted the regulatory agency to discuss the United Kingdom’s Secure by Default principles for building hardware and software that do not pose security and privacy threats within the country.

Sampson said his staff would meet with Dahua representatives only after addressing the government’s concerns that, among other things, the company is helping with the “extra-judicial detention” of native Muslims and others in “political re-education camps.”

One of those alleged opposition members was interviewed April 13, by publisher TechCrunch. Ovalbek Turdakun said he is an ethnic Kyrgys and a Christian.

Turdakun, a middle-aged man with a wife and child, told the publication that he was tortured and imprisoned in a facility with a blanket network of surveillance cameras and microphones.

He was released in 2018 but was subject to constant surveillance around his neighborhood and reportedly harassed for seemingly specious reasons.

Turdakun and his family were able to get to Kyrgyzstan through means not clear in the account, where they met with a director of IPVM, an electronic surveillance trade publication that has become a thorn in the side of multiple governments, including China’s, seen as using the technology in ways that trample human rights.

TechCrunch editors say they have seen an IPVM video interview in which Turdakun identifies Hikvision as the maker of the cameras being used in China’s remote Northwest, home to the bulk of the Uyghurs.

That and other interviews referenced in the story could not be found online for independent viewing.

Turdakun and his family reportedly have been given temporary immigration status allowing them to reside at least for a time within the United States.

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