UNPO Members Gather to Discuss China's Digital Tools of Oppression
The 2019 Geneva Forum on China's High-Tech Repression and Freedom of Religion was inaugurated today [14 November 2019] by Chief Guest Hon’ble Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, President of Central Tibetan Administration and by Special Guest Hon’ble Member of the Swiss National Parliament, Mr. Carlo Sommaruga. The event, organised by the Department of Information and International Relations and the Office of Tibet in Geneva, had the participation of UNPO members affected by China's increasing repression of fundamental human rights.
While technological innovation has opened new possibilities for mobilizing human rights defenders and disseminating information about violations in general, digital progress is also allowing authoritarians states such as China to use powerful new tools of control their own citizens.
Sophisticated surveillance systems including the use of artificial intelligence, biometric registration, phone spyware, drones and GPS tagging represent a serious threat to fundamental rights of people in China and elsewhere. With the enactment of new laws, Beijing has further shrunk the already restrictive space for freedom of expression in the country, obliging private technologyl companies to censor user’s content and to monitor potential activism or dissent.
Ethinic minorities such as Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols have been particulary targeted by mass surveillance systems across the country. Authorities often collect citizen's biometric data, personal information and daily schedules, as well as analyse social behaviour and adherence to rules in public spaces.
While implementing an Orwellian state domestically, China continues to legitimize its policies and hight-tech control over their citizens under the pretext of the struggle against terrorism, separatism and crime. Meanwhile, it continues to dismiss international criticism while manipulating the UN system by attempting to project a new definition of human rights.
Beyond the oppresive environment in China, the two-day forum will also address Beijing's export of surveillance technology to other countries, with international experts discussing the danger that this trend could pose to democractic states.
Photo by Tenzin Nyishon