Google and other U.S. companies are providing services in China that will be used to enhance the Communist Party’s surveillance infrastructure, according to Sen. Marco Rubio.
“It’s an outrage,” the Florida Republican said during a hearing of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. “It’s an embarrassment . . . and it’s hypocritical.”
Rubio trained his fire on American companies during a hearing on China’s repression of Muslim ethnic minorities in the historically-autonomous region of Xinjiang. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “efforts to build the world’s most advanced police state” have been facilities by American companies “who have reportedly supplied surveillance and biometric technology,” as the commission noted.
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“It's hypocritical for American corporations and multinationals doing business in China — who are fully prepared to boycott American cities and American communities because they don't like things that are happening here — to be okay, to turn a blind eye to what’s happening,” Rubio said. “And [they don’t] criticize the government of China and the Communist party because they don't want to jeopardize their ability to sell products in that country.”
China is deploying an array of repressive measures against the religious and ethnic identity of Xinjiang’s Uighur population, a top U.S. diplomat testified. The Communist government has banned compliance with various Muslim practices, such as dietary restrictions, and even intervened to prevent the Uighurs from giving their children traditional names. The crackdown is enforced through “obligatory monitoring” software on phones, the “embedding of party personnel in homes,” surveillance cameras.
“A wide array of evidence indicates that the number of individuals detained in such re-education centers since April 2017 numbers at least in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions,” Ambassador Kelley Currie, the U.S. representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, told the commission. “To guarantee that this suppression continues beyond the internment camps into the daily lives of all Uighurs, Chinese authorities have constructed a highly intrusive, high-tech surveillance system in Xinjiang, which many experts fear will be extended throughout China.”
Google received a particularly-sharp rebuke from Rubio, who faulted the company for scrapping a Pentagon contract to develop artificial intelligence less than a year after launching a major AI research center in China.
“All of it will be shared with the military and with the repressive forces that are doing this,” Rubio predicted. “[Google] doesn't want to give AI technology to the [U.S.] military because, God forbid, we may use it some day to target a terrorist or someone who wants to harm America. But [Google] has no problem opening up a center of AI in China, knowing full well how anything you do in China — if it's a benefit to the military, they're going to use it; if it's a benefit to the security services, they're going to use it.”
Google touted the AI Center as a chance to “make everyone’s life better for the entire world” through the development of cutting-edge technology. “I believe AI and its benefits have no borders,” Fei-Fei Li, the company’s chief scientist for AI, wrote in December. “We look forward to working with the brightest AI researchers in China to help find solutions to the world’s problems. Once again, the science of AI has no borders, neither do its benefits.”