AI-GULAG: how artificial intelligence helps “re-educate” dissidents in China

Late last month, details emerged about how Chinese authorities are stamping out dissent.

Muslim minorities - the Uyghurs - with the helpcamps disguised as labor camps, and very detailed guidelines for the detention and evaluation of detainees. The icing on the cake is that suspicious citizens are identified for “investigation” and “detention” by artificial intelligence. And how the “black box” of oppression works is unclear to journalists and human rights activists. We only know that you can come under investigation for frequent use of the back door or fervent prayers. And for calling for religiosity you can even get 10 years.

The ICIJ describes in detail what the guidelines for the Chinese authorities say.ggprovides an abbreviated translation of the publication.

Big leak

Big leak of secret ChineseGovernment documents disclosed the guidelines for mass detentions in Xinjiang and exposed the mechanism of the regional mass surveillance system and the "prognostic police", operating in the spirit of an Orwellian utopia.

The leak provided the basis for the investigation of "Chinesecables ”conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Secret documents called “Telegram”, which fell into the hands of researchers, were personally approved by the head of the regional security service and act as the leadership for managing the camps, which now contain hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighurs and other national minorities. The leak also contains previously unknown intelligence briefings that reveal how the predictive AI platform works, which helps police select entire categories of Xinjiang residents for arrest.

The investigation shed light on the largest persecution of national and religious minorities in the world since World War II.

According to reports of former prisoners and othersunofficial sources, as well as satellite imagery, over the past two years, the system of government prison camps in Xinjiang has grown to fit more than a million people.

Despite this, the Chinese authorities deny howdocument, and the fact of the existence of the camps. Assuring that we are talking about training centers that help the state fight terrorism. In the centers, according to the government, rights, freedoms and the principle of voluntary stay are respected. In particular, Mandarin is taught there, and trainees can freely come home to take care of children, who are otherwise occupied by other relatives. The government claims that the mass surveillance system has helped make the region safer, because of this, tourist flow has increased by 40%, and local GDP, thanks to it, has increased by 6%.

The authenticity of the document was confirmed by linguists. And sources claim that the date of its creation is also important – 2017 year. It was then that the global campaign to re-educate the Uyghurs began.

Involuntarily Enemies

Uighurs – predominantly MuslimThe community, who speak their own Turkic language, have lived in the arid Central Asian region now known as Xinjiang for more than 1,000 years. They now account for nearly 11 million people in a country where nearly 92% of the 1.4 billion population are of Han ethnicity. Nominally Xinjiang – it is an autonomous region also home to Kazakhs, Tajiks, Hui Muslims and Han Chinese, but has been under Chinese control since the 18th century.

</ img>

In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinpingraised to a new level the nationwide campaign to popularize the doctrines of the Communist Party and Han culture, and the Uighurs, with their religion and ethnic identity different from the rest of the country, came under attack.

Disagreements between Uyghurs, government andthe rest of the Han Chinese population at some point reached a critical point and entered a phase of violence. In 2009, about 200 people were killed by Uyghurs in the capital of Xinjiang, Urumki. In early 2013, they attacked civilians in other Chinese cities, with dozens of victims. At least one of the attacks is responsible for the Uyghur Islamic organization. Reports say that dozens of Uighurs have joined ISIS.

Religious accusations rained down on the peopleextremism and separatism, which led to an increase in restrictions on religious practice in the region, a ban on beards and many Muslim prayers, as well as some types of Muslim paraphernalia, including burqa and veils on the face.

In 2017, as culture collapses,political and religious diversity, Jinping ordered a quiet campaign of mass detentions and forced assimilation in Xinjiang. According to witnesses and news releases, people began to disappear en masse in the region, rumors spread about secret government camps that contain missing people. In some cities in southern Xinjiang, about 40% of the adult population has disappeared, as it became known later.

The Chinese government tried to keep inThe secret to the existence of camps. But from the end of 2017, journalists, scientists, and other researchers - using satellite imagery, government procurement documents, and eyewitness accounts - found several places of detention throughout the region. They were surrounded by fences and watchtowers, a new warning system and mass surveillance were everywhere used.

In 2017, according to witnesses and news reports, about 40% of the adult population disappeared in Xinjiang

In October 2018, when it became clear that fromfinds do not disown, the governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, acknowledged its existence. But he said that these are the so-called vocational education institutions. According to him, their goal is to de-radicalize those who are suspected of terrorism and extremist views.

In an official post that appeared inThis August, the government announced the success of the centers, arguing that it was only thanks to them that they managed to prevent terrorist attacks in the region over the past three years.

The investigation contradicts the officialThe Chinese government's characterization of the camps as charitable social programs that provide "home-based vocational training" and "free" food. The documents state that arrests must be made under almost any circumstances if suspicion is identified &#8211; and shows that the main goal of the campaign is total re-education.

Master Plan and Variations

"Telegram" includes more than two dozenguides for dealing with people (bulletins) and contains the heading "secret." The document was published by the Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the Communist Party responsible for security measures in Xinjiang. His style combines the typical Chinese bureaucracy and ambiguity in the spirit of Orwell. For example, prisoners are called “students” in it, and there are requirements for what “graduates” should be, conditions for going to the toilet and meeting with relatives are carefully spelled out.

In the document, the prisoners are called “students”, and there are requirements for what “graduates” should be, the conditions for going to the toilet and meeting with relatives are carefully spelled out

Dormitory doors must be locked for“Strict management and control of students' actions in order to avoid escapes during classes, periods of eating, breaks in the toilet, bathing time, treatment, family visits, etc. And the staff is obliged to prevent escapes with the help of security posts, surveillance cameras, and warning systems etc. That is, all that is typical of prisons. “Students” can leave camps only because of “illnesses and other special circumstances” and only accompanied by camp workers who can monitor their behavior. “Students” should be in the camp for at least a year, but according to eyewitnesses, this rule was not always observed.

The manual describes a behavior control a camp built on points. You can earn points through ideological transformation, training and activities, discipline. The punishment and incentive system helps to determine, among other things, whether a prisoner can contact his family and when he can leave the institution.

In addition, the leadership classifies prisoners according to the degree of severity of their content - “very strict”, “strict” and “general”.

The document contains provisions regardingthe basic health and physical well-being of prisoners, including clear requirements according to which camp officials cannot allow “abnormal deaths”. Personnel are required to maintain hygienic conditions, prevent disease outbreaks and ensure that camp facilities can withstand fires and earthquakes.

How did Uighur camps grow

</ img>

“Students” are entitled to at least one telephonea conversation a week, a video call at least once a month, so that the families in the camps are sure that everything is in order with their relatives. The testimonies of former prisoners show that this rule was massively ignored. Last February, Uighurs outside of China and their supporters launched a Twitter campaign in which they asked the Chinese government to provide information about missing family members.

Despite health andsecurity, according to eyewitnesses, due to poor living conditions and lack of medical care in the camps, an unknown number of prisoners died. Mihrigul Tursun, a Uighur from Xinjiang currently residing in the United States, told the U.S. commission at a November 2018 hearing that, while in custody, she saw nine women die in such circumstances.

Numerous former prisoners have reported thatthat they have been subjected to or witnessed torture and other abuses, including waterboarding, beatings and rape. “Some prisoners were hung from the wall and shocked with electric batons,” &#8211; Sairagul Sauitbay, a former prisoner who received asylum in Sweden, told the Israeli publication Haaretz. He had seen people who were forced to sit on nails, those who returned from the torture room with blood or without nails.

The Telegram also includes the odiousa section on the “manner of upbringing”, which states that camp personnel should, among other things, “teach” such things as “etiquette”, “obedience”, “friendly behavior” and “regular change of clothes”. Darren Byler, an anthropology professor at the University of Washington and an authoritative specialist in Uyghur culture, said that the desire to teach normal adults to swim and make friends is connected with the popular belief among Han Chinese that Uyghurs are “behind” that they are savages.

From “students” to “qualified specialists”

Chinese authorities defend the so-called policy"Poverty reduction" in Xinjiang. The new professional skills, say the Chinese authorities, will allow Uyghurs to look for work outside the fields and farms and, thus, improve living standards.

</ img>
Those high-tech dungeons

But researchers and journalists found that this is hiding a forced labor system throughout the region — the production of textiles and other consumer goods.

The manual mentions "additionalopportunities" for former camp prisoners, who apparently confirm this information. “All students who have completed the initial training will be sent to an advanced training class for intensive training for a period of 3 to 6 months,” &#8211; the document says. “All prefectures should create special places and special facilities to provide conditions for intensive training of trainees.”

In the section called "employment services"contains instructions for camp officials to pursue a policy of "one group is graduating, one group is finding work." She suggests that those who complete vocational training be placed in the workplace.

Finally, management instructs local police officersthe police stations and the judiciary should provide former prisoners after their employment with “follow-up assistance and education” and instructs that upon release, “students should not leave their line of sight within one year.” This confirms reports that detainees are sent from camps to work places under the constant supervision of the police.

Algorithm Detention

A leak sheds light on the so-calledan integrated platform of joint operations (Integrated Joint Operations Platform), which collects a huge amount of personal data about citizens from various resources and then, using artificial intelligence, forms a list of suspicious people.

According to the Human Rights Organization, inThe sources are numerous Xinjiang checkpoints, face recognition cameras, spyware that Uighurs must install on their smartphones at the request of the police, “Wi-Fi sniffers” that collect identifying information about smartphones and computers and even intercept data packets. According to human rights defenders, a spy app transmits data about what a user is doing on a smartphone to IJOP in real time.

Document Expert at SOS InternationalMulvenon claims that the Chinese authorities have created a model of police activity in which the likelihood of some incidents and the tendency of the population to participate in anti-government actions can be recognized and predicted using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. And the police act on the basis of these predictions. That is, this is not just a warning platform, this platform in which AI acts as a judge over human behavior. The expert characterizes it as a “cybernetic brain,” which is central to China’s most advanced strategic and military strategies. The system “infantilizes” those charged with executing actions and creates the conditions for rules that can lead to disastrous consequences, says Mulvenon.

The program collects and interprets data withoutuser permissions and marks people whom the authorities should pay attention to based on such harmless criteria as daily prayer, traveling abroad, frequent use of the back door in the house.

Perhaps even more important than the collection itselfdata have the psychological consequences of living in such conditions. With face recognition cameras on every corner, endless gearboxes and networks of informants. IJOP creates the feeling that she knows and feels everything, can penetrate the most intimate aspects of everyday life. Neighbors disappear, based on the actions of unknown algorithms, Xinjiang lives in a state of constant terror.

The seeming randomness of the investigations causedIJOP, &#8211; It's not a bug, but a feature, says Samantha Hoffman, an analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute whose work focuses on the collection and use of personal data in China. “This is how state terrorism works. Even if you don't know you're not okay, you're afraid," says Samantha Hoffman.

The police enter information about everyone into the system.who is being questioned: height, blood type, ID, education level, profession, recent trips, household electric meter readings and much more. Then, based on this data, the AI ​​decides whether the person can be considered suspicious

One of the bulletins contains instructions onhow to conduct mass investigations and detentions after the IJOP has compiled a list of suspects. According to the expert, after the appearance of such a list in a week in June 2017, security officers detained 15,683 Xinjiang residents and placed them in internment camps. This is in addition to the 706 officially arrested.

IJOP calculated 24,412 “suspicious persons” forweek, and then the document discusses the reasons for the discrepancies between the official list and the number of detainees. Some could not be detected, others died, but their IDs were used by third parties, etc.

Last year human rights organizationreceived a copy of the mobile application IJOP conducted its reengineering to find out how the application is used by the police and what data it collects. It turned out that it invited the police to enter detailed information about everyone they questioned: height, blood type, ID, level of education, profession, recent trips, readings of household electric meters and much more. Then IJOP uses an as yet unknown algorithm, which determines whether a person can be considered suspicious.

Maya Wang, Senior Researcher, Organization forHuman Rights in China, said the IJOP's goal goes far beyond identifying candidates for detention. Its purpose is to test the entire population for behavior and beliefs to which the government is suspicious, including signs of strong attachment to the Muslim faith or Uyghur identity.

The network stretches abroad

For two years, news organizationspublished increasingly alarming reports about China’s efforts to limit the movement of Uyghurs, including trips abroad. In November 2016, news organizations reported that officials confiscated Xinjiang’s passports. In July 2017, at the request of China, Egypt deported at least 12 and detained dozens of Uyghur students studying at Al-Azhar University, a university that is known for its education in religious studies. In early 2018, Uighurs living abroad reported that security services in Xinjiang systematically collect detailed personal information about them from relatives who still live there.

One of the bulletins shows that such actionswere part of a broader political initiative. It classifies Chinese Uyghurs living abroad by their home regions in Xinjiang and instructs officials to collect personal information about them. Goal &#8211; identify those who may be suspected of terrorism. It says such people should be sent to concentrated education and vocational training immediately after their return to China.

In July 2017, at the request of China, Egyptdeported at least 12 and detained dozens of Uyghur students studying at Al-Azhar University - a university that is known for its education in religious studies

The bulletin contains instructions to organizedeportation of any person who has renounced Chinese citizenship. Those who did not renounce citizenship and were not considered suspicious by the system still need to be sent to a camp &#8211; for studying. And at the same time &#8211; education and training.

Bulletin No. 20 instructs localsecurity officials to check all users of the Zapya Xinjiang mobile application for their links with the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. This is almost 2 million people.

In the documents the threat of “terrorism” and “extremism”mentioned as a basis for detention, but nowhere is there a definition for “terrorism” or “extremism”. The news reported that the detentions were aimed at the intellectual elite, Uyghurs with connections abroad, and religious Uyghurs. However, there are many among those detained who do not fall into these categories. Experts say the campaign is aimed not only at specific behavior, but also at an entire ethnic and religious group.

The document also regulates the role of embassies andConsulates of China to collect information for the IJOP, which is then used to detain new "suspects." It contains a list of 4,341 people who applied for visas and other documents at Chinese consulates or applied for a valid identity card at Chinese embassies or consulates abroad.

News organizations reported that there were foreign nationals among the prisoners. As it turned out, they were not there by chance.

The documents contain a list of 1,535 residentsXinjiang, who received foreign citizenship and also applied for Chinese visas. IJOP determined that of these 75 were in China and divided them by nationality: "26 Turkish, 23 Australian, 3 American, 5 Swedes, 2 from New Zealand, 1 from the Netherlands, 3 from Uzbekistan, 2 from the UK, 5 &# 8211; Canadians, 3 &#8211; Finns, 1 &#8211; French and 1 &#8211; from Kyrgyzstan." The bulletin ordered investigations into them, but was not overtly concerned about any diplomatic fallout that might arise from placing foreign nationals in extrajudicial internment camps.

10 years for not calling to watch porn

Finally, there is another document notclassified but rare enough outside of Chinese government circles. This is an extract from a lawsuit that was heard in 2018 at the Kakilik People’s Procuracy in southern Xinjiang. It describes the charges against a Uyghur man detained and arrested in the summer of 2017 on charges of “inciting extreme thoughts.”

The man was accused of recommending colleagues to avoid watching pornography and not to communicate with those who do not pray

The man was accused of recommendingColleagues should avoid viewing pornography and avoid associating with those who do not pray, including “Han kafirs” (kafir is an Arabic word meaning infidel or non-believer). The alleged crimes were witnessed by colleagues with Uyghur names with whom he spoke.

The document states that the defendant’s lawyerasked the court for leniency, claiming that this was the first crime of a person, and that because of “low level of legal awareness and level of education, he could easily be misled and commit a crime”.

Special project

Artificial Intelligence on TVs: How It Works

The court sentenced the man to 10 years in prison.