US tech companies behind much of China’s massive surveillance industry: report

Several U.S. technology companies have been involved with China’s surveillance industry, which has recently faced scrutiny for its tracking of minorities and political dissidents, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. 

Companies such as Seagate Technology PLC, Western Digital Corp., Intel Corp. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. have been involved in the industry, according to the Journal. 

The newspaper reported that Hewlett Packard Enterprise owns 49 percent of New H3C Technologies Co. Ltd., which produces tools used by Chinese law enforcement. Aksu, a city that appears to have several internment camps based on satellite images, is one customer, according to the Journal. 

A Hewlett Packard Enterprise spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that it is a 49 percent, non-controlling owner of the H3C Corp., which has confirmed that “multi-purpose enterprise IT equipment commonly used by businesses and government has been sold to authorities in Xinjiang.”

“H3C is not involved in the deployment of this technology in the province by the authorities. HPE was not aware of these sales and is looking into them,” the spokesperson said.

According to Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the sales cited in the Journal article were by H3C and resellers of standard, commonly used IT equipment. 

Xinjiang has denied the presence of internment camps, although The New York Times recently obtained leaked Chinese documents regarding a crackdown on minorities in the region. 

The Journal reported that Seagate and Western Digital have sold hard disk drives to Chinese company Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd., which sells surveillance products. Hikvision has been placed on a U.S. blacklist and a spokesperson for the firm told The Journal that it has done work in Xinjiang, including one “education and training center.” 

Seagate and Western Digital told the Journal that they follow all laws and are monitoring the situation in Xinjiang. 

“We recognize the gravity of the allegations related to surveillance in the Xinjiang Province,” Western Digital told the newspaper, adding in a statement that it doesn’t sell products to China’s government. 

Intel gave seed money, chips and technical solutions to Chinese firm NetPosa Technologies Ltd., the Journal reported, noting that NetPosa has served police departments in dozens of cities and China’s Ministry of Public Security. 

Intel continues to provide NetPosa, which also reportedly works in surveillance in Xinjiang, with chips it uses in its surveillance tools used by police.

An Intel spokesperson told The Hill in a statement Wednesday that the company opposes human rights abuses, but that its products can be resold through various distributors.

“Intel opposes any abuse of human rights and has a policy to not ship any products in situations such as these unless we have high confidence that our products are not being used in connection with human rights abuses. However, Intel processors are general-purpose computing products that can be incorporated into countless systems and applications, and Intel products are resold through a large number of distributors and [original equipment manufacturers],” said the statement from spokesperson William Moss. 

“We do not always know nor can we control what products our customers create or the applications end-users may develop,” Moss added. 

Intel told the Journal that customers across the world use its products for a variety of reasons.  

Xinjiang reportedly uses facial recognition cameras, ID card scanners phone readers and other methods to keep track of Muslims, including Uighurs. Its government told the Journal in a statement that tracking public spaces for safety reasons “is accepted current international practice.” 

Updated at 1:21 p.m.

Tags China Hewlett-Packard Intel Seagate Uighurs Western Digital Corporation
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