With an Amazon logo Behind him and lights of the Shanghai venture capital scene in front of him, the executive on stage delivered his presentation. His company, Renwei Electronics, is helping Chinese authorities track down prisoners and detainees, alerting guards to their movements and even equipping them with heart rate monitors.
Renwei deploys its system of “smart prisons” in the Chinese region of Xinjiang, where there are more than one million Muslim minorities have been closed.
Still, that didn’t interfere with Renwei’s warm welcome at an event hosted by an Amazon host. “joint innovation center“in November. The organizers of the event offered the Renwei executive a platform to offer an” investor road show “style speech to some of China’s most prestigious investors. And Renwei received a”award for product innovation”Recognizing it as one of the six“ outstanding entrepreneurial companies ”.
By submitting a detailed list of questions, Amazon declined to comment on the registration. Renwei did not respond to any requests for comment.
A growing list of multinational companies is under pressure to move their supply chains away from Xinjiang amid growing evidence mass arrest i forced labor there, as part of what the United States and other countries have recently called genocide. Congress is studying a bill banning imports from Xinjiang tainted by forced labor, and U.S. customs has already banned products made with tomato and cotton in the region, among other goods.
Amazon close its e-commerce business in China in 2019, but other parts of its vast empire continue to work with Chinese customers, including its highly profitable cloud computing subsidiary Amazon Web Services.
AWS runs the joint innovation center with Shanghai local government and business organizations. The center empowers startups by providing them with cloud-based AWS resources and technical support, and helping them acquire talent and comply with government regulations, according to an announcement of the event. It is unclear what benefits they received, if any, from Renwei and other companies that won awards. The center’s website highlights that the companies it supports also benefit from Amazon’s resources and reputation.
Horizon Advisory, a geopolitical advisory firm based in Washington, DC, first took note of the Renwei Award and the Amazon research event it shared with BuzzFeed News.
Renwei technology has been used in prisons all over China, including Zhongjiazhuang Prison, located near Shihezi City. The prison is managed by the powerful Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary and governmental organization that the United States sanctioned last year, citing its ties to human rights abuses in the region.
BuzzFeed News located the Xinjiang Shawan County Prison using satellite imagery. An official photo of the prison published in 2016 shows a round entrance door with elaborate irons and a lion statue to the left of the entrance. Behind the door, a road leads to a two- to three-story building. A white wall and a row of trees line the road. A Google Earth image shows the shadow of the door projected on the ground, a light-colored object about 2.5 meters high that appears to coincide with the lion statue, and the east-west wall and the same tree line. The roof of the building in the background also matches the photograph.
The Chinese government has forced more than a million Muslim minorities, including Uighurs, Kazakhs, Hui Muslims and others, into mass internment camps in the past four years. A BuzzFeed News survey last year Found the government had drastically increased its campaign since 2017, building hundreds of new compounds with the characteristics of internment camps and prisons. Dozens of people formerly detained there described routine abuse, deprivation, and humiliation inside, ranging from massification and deprivation of food to beatings and even torture. The government says the internment camp system is for “transformation through education” and radicalization of extremists.
Government data analyzed by the New York Times it proves it Xinjiang’s prison population has also increased during this time: the region accounted for 21% of the country’s total arrests for just 2% of the population in 2017. Muslim minorities make up about half of Xinjiang’s population. According to government data, courts controlled by the Chinese Communist Party convict more than 99% of the accused.
Prisons in many parts of the world, including the United States, use data-based systems to monitor and control prisoners. But in Xinjiang, the government campaign specifically objectives ethnic minorities detaining them for religious practices, connections with family abroad, or for other conduct considered suspicious or threatening to the state.
Renwei describes its system as “an important platform for digital prisons to improve their management capabilities through information technology.” It uses image processing, data encryption, cloud computing and big data to set up a remotely controlled “personnel positioning system”. says the company. The data becomes a centralized platform that authorities can use for “management decision making”.
Renwei says this improves efficiency and helps prison staff “achieve new ideas of preventive prevention, average incident control and post-incident verification.” An early warning system indicates when police are attacked, Renwei says, and when detainees enter prohibited areas. Prisoners can be equipped with electronic devices that monitor heart rate and other vital signs to “reduce the risk to law enforcement.” The system helps prevent people from escaping or dying to themselves, Renwei says.
High-tech surveillance is a hallmark of life in Xinjiang’s camps and prisons. There are more than two dozen people arrested previously he told BuzzFeed News which were monitored in real time by cameras placed in the corners of the cells and even in the bathrooms. Guards could punish them for petty infractions, such as speaking their native language instead of Mandarin Chinese.
Renwei has also received recognition from China’s national security service, the Ministry of Public Security. The company participated in a ministry promotion conference attended by the department’s deputy minister and other government officials.
In addition to the Shanghai venture capitalists, the November 16, 2020 hearing Amazon event included executives from multinational giants such as Siemens and Kone Elevators, according to a press release about the event.
On stage, Renwei’s executive spent about 11 minutes flipping through a PowerPoint presentation that covered every aspect of the business, noting that the system could be used not only in prisons but also in detention centers. In the end, he looked at the investors and asked them questions. ●
April 20, 2021, at 7:55 p.m.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said that Renwei’s executive on stage thanked the support of the Shanghai-Amazon Joint Innovation Center.