Huawei helping China maintain ‘peace’ in Uyghur camps

Abhinandan Mishra Published December 7, 2019, 7:19 pm Updated December 7, 2019,7:19 PM

NEW DELHI: Chinese information technology company, Huawei, which is vying for space in India’s upcoming 5G market, is helping the Chinese government in “maintaining peace” in the internment camps or the “re-education” camps in the Xinjiang province of China where millions of Uyghur Muslims have been kept for the last couple of years.

This has been revealed in the “Chinese cables”, a set of highly classified Chinese government documents that were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) recently. These documents give a glimpse into how the Chinese government is running these mass detentions camps in Xinjiang.

The Sunday Guardian wrote to Huawei, seeking the company’s response to the following questions: 1. What is the extent of Huawei’s involvement in the day-to-day running of “re-education” camps in Xinjiang province? 2. Does Huawei supply equipment to these camps? If yes, then what is the nature of these equipment? 3. How would Huawei respond to reports which have proved that Muslim Uyghurs are “illegally” kept in these camps in Xinjiang?

No response was received from Huawei till the time the report went to press. A representative of Huawei India had earlier stated that they would check and “revert”.

As per the documents accessed by the ICIJ and the subsequent investigations carried out by other journalists, Huawei is directly working with the Chinese government’s public security bureaus in the region. Public security bureaus are essentially local police stations.

“Huawei is involved in high security projects that identify ‘subjects’ and keep them ‘secure’ in Xinjiang,” a non-government source, who is aware of the business spread of Huawei in Xinjiang, told The Sunday Guardian.

“It plays an important role in the ‘Safe Xinjiang’ project, which, as the name suggests, focuses on how to keep Xinjiang ‘safe’. It helps the government in identifying ‘extremist’ individuals,” the source added. It is pertinent to mention that the ICIJ had got the classified documents through a chain of exiled Uyghurs staying in various parts of the world.

Clarifying further on how Huawei was helping in “maintaining peace” in Xinjiang, the source said that it was part of one of the projects whose aim was to spread “positive public image” in Xinjiang, which is contrary to the ground reality.

China, which is known to jealously guard what happens inside its border, exercises extreme caution when it comes to Xinjiang as it continues to face increasing international scrutiny over the detention camps in that province. These camps have been described by activists as something similar to the concentration camps of World War II.

This newspaper had reported in August (Uyghurs expose China’s oppression in Xinjiang) how bad the conditions were in these camps.

The exposé done by the “Chinese cables” proves Huawei’s involvement in helping the Chinese government in Xinjiang. This is likely to make it more difficult for Huawei to spread its operations in India, especially with regards to the upcoming 5G rollout, for which it has been pushing very hard.

Security agencies have cautioned Indian policymakers to exercise extreme caution while dealing with Huawei as it has become clear that Huawei is virtually an extension of the Chinese government, a charge that has been strongly and repeatedly denied by Huawei to this newspaper and to other media outlets in the past.

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