It looks like China just laid out how it wants Google to help it persecute its Muslim minority
ALEXANDRA MAOCT 14, 2018, 15:30 IST
A Google sign is seen during the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (ChinaJoy) in Shanghai, China August 3, 2018.Aly Song/Aly Song
- Chinese regional authorities recently laid out the kind of speech suppression that Google will likely have to facilitate for the country’s persecuted Muslim ethnic minority to launch its new product in China.
- Regional authorities in China passed new laws on how to crack down on its Uighur ethnic minority, which includes heavy surveillance, policing, and censorship from tech companies.
- Google has received a lot of backlash from rights activists and even the Trump administration for its China plans.
Chinese regional authorities recently laid out the kind of speech suppression that Google will likely have to facilitate for the country’s persecuted Muslim ethnic minority to launch its new product in China.
Authorities in Xinjiang, a region in western China, on Tuesday,demonstrating how officials should root out banned speech to fight so-called religious extremists.Around 11 million Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority, live in Xinjiang, and are subject to some of the most , which include being across the region, and having their recorded.
Tuesday’s laws made clear that authorities want tech companies to play their part in the surveillance, policing, and silencing of the Uighurs. Beijing justifies its crackdown in Xinjiang – also known to Uighurs as East Turkestan – as a counterterrorism measure, though it’s denied UN inspectors access to the region.
Google could be complicit in this persecution if its secretive plans to launch a censored search engine – codenamed “Project Dragonfly” – become a reality.
Muslim Uighur women on a cellphone in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in April 2002.Kevin Lee/Getty
of the new laws orders telecommunications operators to “put in place monitoring systems and technological prevention measures for audio, messages, and communication records” that may have “extremifying information.”
Forms of “extremification,” as laid out in the laws, are vague. They include “interfering” with people’s ability to interact with people of other ethnicities or faiths, and “rejecting or refusing public goods and services.”It’s not entirely clear what they mean, but authorities have detained Uighurs in the past for bizarre reasons like.
According to the laws, when telecommunications companies find content unsatisfactory to the Chinese state, they will also be ordered to “stop its transmission, delete the relevant information, keep evidence, and promptly report the case” to Chinese authorities.
The companies will also have to “assist the public security organs in conducting a lawful disposition,” which likely means giving up users’ personal information – such as their addresses – so Chinese law enforcement can find them.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai.Getty
Google complicit if it enters China
Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China, which would block out websites and search terms unsavory to the ruling Communist Party – such as human rights, democracy, and religion,, citing leaked documents.
Analso showed that Google would link Android users’ searches to their personal phone numbers. This means that individual users could have their online activity easily monitored, and be at risk of detention if Google passed on the data to the Chinese government.
China’s President Xi Jinping looks on during a signing meeting with Maldives President Abdulla Yameen at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 7, 2017.REUTERS/Fred Dufour/Pool
Chinese tech giants have passed on user data and the contents of private conversations to Chinese law-enforcement in the past. Earlier this year, China’s Ministry of Public Securitythat law-enforcement officers could obtain and use private conversations on WeChat, the popular messaging app, in legal proceedings.Shortly after Google’s China plans were made public, wrote a public letter to Google CEO that said: “Google risks becoming complicit in the Chinese government’s repression of freedom of speech and other human rights in China.”
US Vice President Mike Pence last week slammed Google’s China plans,: “Google should immediately end development of the ‘Dragonfly’ app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers.”
tability is a blessing, Instability is a calamity, Yarkand, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China on September 20, 2012 in Yarkand, China.Eric Lafforgue/Art in All of Us/Corbis via Getty Images
Tech companies already play a huge part in China’s police state
Earlier this year Yuan Yang, the Financial Times’ tech correspondent in Beijing,state officials had accessed her private messages on WeChat without her knowledge or permission. A police officer randomly cited messages she had posted in a private chat, she said.
Similarly, Chinese police, a law student in Canada, in China after Zhang criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping on social media.
“I also didn’t expect police to respond so quickly. It suggests my social media account is probably under their close monitoring. They will read everything I say,” Zhang told Business Insider earlier this year.
An ethnic Uyghur man adjust his traditional hat called a doppa as he talks with others at a teahouse on July 1, 2017 in the old town of Kashgar, in the far western Xinjiang province, China.Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
to download an app that scans photos, videos, audio files, ebooks, and other documents.
The app, named Jingwang (“cleansing the web” in Mandarin Chinese), extracts information including the phone number and model, and scours through its files, the US government-funded Open Technology Fund.The screenshots below show what the app looks like. The grab on the left shows Jingwang prompting users to delete “dangerous content” on their phone, while the one on the right shows the app’s access.
The screengrab on the left shows Jingwang prompting users to delete "dangerous content” on their phone, while the one on the right shows the app’s access.Jingwang Weishi/Open Technology Fund
The type of regime Google is getting into bed with
Rights groups have accused China of imprisoning up to 1 million Uighurs in detention or re-education camps, where people have described beingin order to get food.
The new Xinjiang lawsdespite Beijing’s previous claims that they did not exist.
China also appears to be, even if they are citizens of other countries. Multiple Uighurs living overseas have reported threats made directly to them or their family members in China if they did not give up personal data such as license plate numbers and bank details.
If Google sets up a base in China, it won’t just be party to Uighur abuses, either. China has a track record ofto interrupt their phone calls.