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Top Huawei PR executive quits after reports of company aiding China in Uyghur surveillance?

The resignation of Huawei Denmark's communications VP follows reports that the Chinese tech giant was involved in the surveillance of Muslim Uyghurs.

Akarsh Verma | December 16, 2020 | Updated 21:26 IST


  • Huawei Denmark’s communication VP has resigned due to the company’s role in developing an "Uyghur alarm” used by China in Xinjiang.
  • The software could send automated “Uyghur alarms” to the authorities when its camera systems identified people of Uyghur ethnicity.
  • The information was brought to light by American surveillance research firm IPVM.

Tommy Zwicky who was working as the Chinese firm's vice president for communications in Denmark for more than six months has quit. His resignation comes after internal Huawei documents were made public, which talked about an "Uyghur alarm" system that Huawei had worked on with a Chinese firm 'Megvii' that specialises in facial-recognition softwares, back in 2018.

Zwicky stepped down after telling a Danish journalist that he couldn't explain the reports, in a deleted post on Twitter. He officially remains under contract to Huawei until February and is unable to discuss his decision.

According to a Washington Post report, the software that could send automated "Uyghur alarms" to the communist government authorities when its camera systems identified people of the oppressed central Asian ethnicity.

French footballer Antoine Griezmann ended his sponsorship deal with Huawei following the Washington Post report. He had been a brand ambassador for Huawei since 2017.

Huawei in its defence told BBC that "We provide general-purpose connectivity products based on recognised industry standards, and we comply with ethics and governance systems around emerging technology. We do not develop or sell systems that identify people by their ethnicity, and we do not condone the use of our technologies to discriminate against or oppress members of any community."

American surveillance research firm IPVM brought to light the Chinese-language documents on 8 December. The report referenced an "interoperability test in which Huawei and Megvii jointly provided a face-recognition solution based on Huawei's video cloud solution. In the solution, Huawei provided servers, storage, network equipment, its FusionSphere cloud platform, cameras, and other software and hardware while Megvii provided its dynamic facial-recognition system software". Among the functions of Megvii's software that the report said Huawei had verified was an "Uyghur alert".

Uyghurs who are a Muslim Turkic ethnic group native of Xinjiang province in Central Asia, have long been discriminated against in the People's Republic of China by the majority ethnic group "Han Chinese". In a bid to homogenise the nation's population, the communist government has transferred more than a million Uyghurs to what they call "Re-education camps". These modern-day gulags train Uyghurs to abandon their culture, traditions, language, and most importantly religion (which is frowned upon in the atheist country).

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