Huawei patent from 2018 describes the technology used to identify race features in pedestrians photographed or filmed in the street that may indicate they are of Uighur origin.

A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture taken on January 29, 2020.
A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture taken on January 29, 2020. (Reuters)

A US research group has found a Huawei patent describing the technology used to identify race features among pedestrians that may indicate they are of Uighur origin, adding to mounting allegations that China is mass surveilling its citizens in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. 

The 2018 patent was discovered by US video-surveillance research group IPVM which reported it in conjunction with the BBC.

Huawei, however, said it will delete the reference to "Uighur" in the patent upon permission from China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA), the BBC reported, quoting a spokesperson.

"Huawei opposes discrimination of all types, including the use of technology to carry out ethnic discrimination," Huawei said.

"Identifying individuals' race was never part of the research-and-development project. It should never have become part of the application."

READ MORE: HRW: China using surveillance tech to arbitrarily detain Uighurs

Uighur surveillance

Huawei's patent was filed in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

It refers to the use of "deep-learning artificial-intelligence techniques to identify various features of pedestrians" and directly includes reference to "race (Han [China's biggest ethnic group], Uighur)" BBC reported.

International human rights groups have documented mounting evidence of forced labour, as well as forced sterilisations, torture, surveillance, and repression of Uighur culture.

The United Nations estimated at least one million of the minority among others were held in an internment camp. 

China says the camps provide "voluntary education and training."

The US State Department accused Chinese officials of subjecting Uighur Muslims to torture, abuse "and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion."

Earlier this week, the UK government announced businesses will receive fines if they do not carry out checks and show their supply chains are free from alleged forced labour following reports of human rights violations in the area. 

Beijing denies the charges

READ MORE: Why is China being accused of sterilising Uighur women?

Source: TRTWorld and agencies