China Testing AI Emotion-Detection Software On Uighurs, According To Report

by : Cameron Frew on : 28 May 2021 09:35
China Testing AI Emotion-Detection Software On Uighurs, According To ReportPixabay/PA Images

China has been testing artificial intelligence and facial recognition software on Uighur Muslims, according to a new report.

More than a million Uighurs have been held in Chinese mass detention facilities in Xinjiang province since 2017, with allegations of forced labour, sterilisation and systematic rape, abuse and torture. Human Rights Watch earlier said the country was committing ‘crimes against humanity’.


According to a new report, camera systems capable of detecting human emotions have now been tested on Uighurs in China.

A protest against the treatment of Uighurs in London. (PA Images)PA Images

A software engineer speaking on condition of anonymity, out of fear for his safety, told BBC’s Panorama he installed these systems in police stations in the Xinjiang province.

While he didn’t reveal the company he works for, he showed five photos of Uighurs who have been used for testing the software. ‘The Chinese government use Uighurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories,’ he said.


The systems are built for ‘pre-judgement without any credible evidence’, tracking small changes in facial expressions and skin pores before presenting a pie chart illustrating people’s state of mind. ‘We placed the emotion detection camera three metres from the subject. It is similar to a lie detector but far more advanced technology,’ he explained.

A protest against the treatment of Uighurs in London. (PA Images)PA Images

Officers in China also use ‘restraint chairs… your wrists are locked in place by metal restraints, and [the] same applies to your ankles.’

Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, was also presented with the evidence, which she described as ‘shocking’.


‘It’s not just that people are being reduced to a pie chart, it’s people who are in highly coercive circumstances, under enormous pressure, being understandably nervous and that’s taken as an indication of guilt, and I think, that’s deeply problematic,’ she said.

In response to the claims, the Chinese embassy in London didn’t directly comment on the alleged software, but said: ‘The political, economic, and social rights and freedom of religious belief in all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are fully guaranteed. People live in harmony regardless of their ethnic backgrounds and enjoy a stable and peaceful life with no restriction to personal freedom.’

Uighurs are regularly forced to give DNA samples, as well as download an app that harvests their personal data, gathering ‘dozens of different kinds of perfectly legal behaviours including things like whether people were going out the back door instead of the front door, whether they were putting gas in a car that didn’t belong to them,’ Richardson said.


‘Authorities now place QR codes outside the doors of people’s homes so that they can easily know who’s supposed to be there and who’s not,’ she added.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: News, AI, China, Uighurs


BBC News
  1. BBC News

    AI emotion-detection software tested on Uyghurs