The Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China has written a letter to companies in Silicon Valley (including Amazon, Microsoft, and a conglomerate that includes Google), imploring them not to be complicit in human rights violations in China. The letter describes various abuses the Chinese government is committing against its citizens and says:
We petition your companies to take steps to ensure that you are not enabling these ongoing human rights abuses. We urge you to not follow in the steps of past companies, which turned a blind eye to the atrocities of the Holocaust and was complicit in providing technology that the Nazis employed in identifying individuals for extermination.
Decreasing Freedom of Speech, Religious Freedom in China
The Coalition to Advance Religious Freedom in China was formed earlier this year and is an interfaith body that includes Christian human rights organization ChinaAid. At a press conference announcing the coalition’s launch, ChinaAid president Bob Fu emphasized the Chinese government’s “sinicization” of all religions, as well as the fact that the persecution of Christians has increased recently (see this story about the underground church in China). Another member who is the vice president of Citizen Power Initiatives for China said the nationwide surveillance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has established is worse than that depicted by George Orwell in his novel, 1984.
Now the coalition members have written a letter addressed to “CEOs of companies doing business with China,” urging them to consider how the Chinese government is using technology to oppress its citizens and control its business partners. One example of this is that China requires U.S. companies to host information on local servers subject to inspection by Chinese authorities. Another is the “Great Firewall,” an internet censorship system through which the government blocks certain websites and removes social media posts that it perceives to be a threat. The Guardian reports that in the book, The Great Firewall of China, James Griffith shows how U.S tech companies were instrumental in providing China with its censorship technology.
The letter also brings up concerns posed by facial recognition technology and refers to a surveillance and human rights report the UN released in May. According to the report, there is compelling evidence that the Chinese government is using this technology to surveil and oppress the Uighur people, a predominantly Muslim minority group of about 10 million.
The Washington Free Beacon published a report Monday saying that the Uighur independence group, East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, just completed a nine-month open source intelligence gathering project. Through the project, the group discovered at least 124 concentration camps in Xinjiang Province in China, not including other labor and prison camps in the region. According to the Beacon, the purpose of these camps is to enforce the government’s ideology and to consolidate Beijing’s authority. Experts cited in the report say it is not an exaggeration to compare these camps to those created by Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union. The independence group’s founder said, “We want the world to know about these concentration camps. We fear China is preparing for a 21st Century Holocaust.”
In their letter, the coalition members say,
We state unreservedly our outrage that international companies are complicit in supplying and servicing the technology used in the massive archipelago of secret detention centers and the total-surveillance police-state throughout the Uyghur Region. Business as usual cannot continue when an estimated 1.5 million, and possibly three million, Uyghur men and women are being dragged away from their homes and families to “re-education camps.”
As far as practical steps go, the coalition is calling on American tech companies to “form an action plan” for refusing to take part in China’s human rights violations. The coalition also wants companies to seek guidance when creating those action plans, to refuse to censor their own content, and to refuse to give user information to the Chinese government.
Says the letter,
In light of this situation, we call on your companies to thoroughly review all business dealings in China and communicate to Chinese government, academic, and business partners an affirmative public declaration that you will not help them obtain or develop technology that is directly utilized in some of the worst modern-day human rights abuses. We recognize the potential for your companies to help China’s society flourish if you decide to take leadership on these vital human rights issues.