This picture taken on June 25, 2017 shows a police vehicle patrolling the streets near the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a day before the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images
  • China's Xinjiang region is home to a large population of Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic Turkic minority.
  • Uyghurs are being used to test a camera system that could detect emotions, the BBC reported.
  • Xinjiang has been under mass surveillance and more than a million Uyghurs are in detention centres.
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A software engineer said he installed a camera system that could detect emotions in police stations in Xinjiang that are being tested on the Uyghurs, the BBC reported.

The system uses AI and facial recognition that could pick up on a person's emotions and is similar to a lie detector test but "far more advanced technology," the engineer who was kept anonymous for his safety said.

The engineer, who showed the BBC five photos of Uyghur detainees, said the recognition system was meant for "pre-judgment without any credible evidence."

"The Chinese government use Uyghurs as test subjects for various experiments just like rats are used in laboratories," he said.

Xinjiang is a western region in China, where roughly half of the population of 25 million is made up of Uyghurs and other Turkic minorities, the vast majority of which are Muslim.

The engineer told the BBC that the cameras were placed three metre away from the subjects. He said subjects are put in "restraint chairs," where their wrists and ankles are locked in place by metal restraints.

The AI system can detect and analyse even minor changes in expressions and the software makes a pie chart where red segments represent negative states of mind.

The Chinese embassy in London did not respond to the BBC's questions about the use of emotional recognition software in the province, but said: "The political, economic, and social rights and freedom of religious belief in all ethnic groups in Xinjiang are fully guaranteed."

At least one million Uyghurs are being detained in what the Chinese government calls "reeducation camps" in Xinjiang. The region is also under mass surveillance.

Reports about the internment camps have told of forced labour, surveillance, confinement, verbal and physical abuse, forced sterilisation, and an intense Chinese Communist Party indoctrination regimen.

China sees Uyghurs as religious extremists and claims all its actions against the group are "counterterrorism and de-extremism measures."

The country has also used that claim to defend its mass surveillance of the region, the BBC reported.

Last month, Human Rights Watch released a 53-page report that detailed a policy of torture, disappearances, and cultural erasure in the predominantly Turkic region.

"Chinese authorities have systematically persecuted Turkic Muslims - their lives, their religion, their culture," Sophie Richardson, HRW's China director, said in a statement. "Beijing has said it's providing 'vocational training' and 'deradicalisation,' but that rhetoric can't obscure a grim reality of crimes against humanity."

University of Colorado Professor Darren Byler told the BBC that Uyghurs also have to routinely give DNA and many have to download a government phone app that gathers data including contact lists and text messages. That data is then sent through a computer system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform,

Richardson was shown evidence of the facial recognition system, the BBC reported.

"It is shocking material. 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.

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