Big Brother Olympics: Beijing to feature Uighur surveillance company as major sponsor
The Olympics, which are all dedicated to peace, human dignity, and brotherhood, have a pretty creepy sponsor now that the host is Beijing.
According to the Washington Free Beacon:
A Chinese company sanctioned by the United States for helping the government surveil Uyghurs is a major sponsor of the upcoming Beijing Olympics.
iFlytek is the exclusive supplier of automated translation software for the upcoming Winter Olympics. The Chinese government uses the company’s technology to surveil Chinese Uyghurs and other persecuted groups. The Commerce Department sanctioned iFlytek along with other Chinese artificial intelligence firms in 2019 for their role in "human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance."
Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called iFlytek’s involvement in the Olympics "truly shameful."
"The International Olympic Committee, which claims to ‘recognize and uphold human rights,' is allowing a Chinese state-sponsored company that aids the Chinese government's atrocious human rights abuses against the Uyghurs to sponsor the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee," Risch told the Washington Free Beacon. "This just goes to show that the IOC values profit and its relationship with Beijing over all else."
That so-called artificial intelligence firm, which translates languages, is neck-deep in China's surveillance of ethnic Uighurs, the Turkic people in China's northwest, millions of whom have been systematically forced into labor camps in order to wring any vestige of non-communist culture out of them. This company's "products" provide China's "Lives of Others" surveillance apparatchiks the means to know what individual Uighurs may be saying or writing in private, the better to abuse and imprison those who do not conform mindlessly to China's communist party line. It's as Big Brother as such things get.
Anne Applebaum, who has a good November 2021 Atlantic article (spoiled in one part by an ignorant anti-Trump diatribe), describes what China is inflicting on the Uighurs:
If the stories told by the young dissidents in Vilnius make you angry, the stories told by the Uyghurs of Istanbul will haunt your dreams.
A few months ago, in a hot, airless apartment over a dress shop, I met Kalbinur Tursun. She was dressed in a dark-green gown with ruffled sleeves. Her face, framed by a tightly drawn headscarf, resembled that of a saint in a medieval triptych. Her small daughter, in Mickey Mouse leggings, played with an electronic tablet while we spoke.
Tursun is a Uyghur, a member of China’s predominantly Muslim Chinese minority, born in the territory that the Chinese call Xinjiang and that many Uyghurs know as East Turkestan. Tursun had six children—too many in a country where there are strict rules limiting births. Also, she wanted to raise them as Muslims; that, too, was a problem in China. When she became pregnant again, she feared being harassed by police, as women with more than two children often are. She and her husband decided to move to Turkey. They got passports for themselves and for their youngest child, but were told the other passports would take longer. Because of her pregnancy, the three of them came to Istanbul anyway; after she and her daughter were settled, her husband returned for the rest of the family. Then he disappeared.
That was five years ago. Tursun has not spoken with her husband since. In July 2017, she spoke with her sister, who promised to take care of her remaining children. Then they lost contact. A year after that, Tursun came across a video being passed around on WhatsApp. Shot at what appeared to be a Chinese orphanage, it showed Uyghur children, heads shaved and all dressed alike, learning to speak Chinese. One of the children was her daughter Ayshe.
What a nightmare, and this wasn't something that happened 60 years ago. It's happening now, thanks in part to technology turned to evil uses by the Chinese communist state. The Atlantic has another creepy account of what China is doing to the Uighurs, here.
Now the company has become a sponsor and showpiece for the Beijing Olympics, to be featured as a great example of China's progress, but also to be deployed in the Olympic Village, the better to spy on the athletes of many nationalities, to make sure none is saying anything negative about the old gray men of Beijing, and quite likely to gather intelligence on athlete tactics and approaches, the better to help the Chinese team, which, I am sure, will do "excellently." The third thing they are likely to do is "data-mine," the better to gather material with which to improve their "product." The voices of athletes being surveilled may well become artificial intelligence tools for future operations.
The whole thing is reason to stay away from the Beijing Olympics, which will be coming up soon. If the Chicoms can't hold a decent Olympics without a Big Brother surveillance apparatus as a flagship sponsor, why should anyone expect a fair participation field, or basic privacy of one's thoughts as an athlete or supporting person, in perfect safety from government goons?
China should be held up as an object of scorn for this Big Brother sponsor, but they keep getting away with this sort of thing and lowering the bar again and again as to what's acceptable. Perhaps there will be no danger to television watchers from this sponsor, but to hold this company up as a good guy company in a public relations bonanza is disgusting. Meanwhile, the potential for trouble on the ground from this company's devices is pretty significant.
So much for the Olympic spirit.
Image: Logo via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.