100 signatures reached
To: Massey University
Cut ties with iFLYTEK - support the Uyghurs
Kia ora Vice Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas,
I recently became aware of Massey University’s funding agreement with Chinese company iFlytek. As you are no doubt aware, this company has been tied to the ongoing appalling human rights abuses of the Uyghur people by the Chinese Government.
In the face of the continued systemic oppression of the Uyghur people which is alarming the world, it is no longer justifiable for Massey to continue this funding agreement with iFlytek. I emplore you to consider not only the ethical violations involved in this partnership, but the moral imperative to do what we can to signal our opposition as New Zealanders to this horrific treatment of millions of human beings. I ask you to end the partnership with iFlytek as soon as possible, and to be part of the right side of history.
Why is this important?
The situation for the Uyghur people in China is horrific and urgent. Mass ‘re-education camps’ are now holding at least one million Uyghur people in China, which many are now acknowledging as concentration camps. Thousands of people have vanished. Children are being removed from their parents and being placed in re-education schools. Women are the subject of forced sterilisation. Muslim Uyghur people are unable to practice their religion, associate with each other or travel freely. More and more reports of torture and sexual abuse are emerging from the camps.
Uyghurs who have fled their homeland are still not free to speak up on what is happening, as China is enforcing a policy of punishing the families of those who do. Words such as ‘concentration camps’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ should not be used lightly, but it is now widely acknowledged that this is the reality of the strategy being employed by the Chinese Government on the Uyghur people. Even here in New Zealand, we are aware of harassment and intimidation of the small Uyghur community by the Chinese government.
Recently released documents obtained from the Chinese Government show what a pivotal role technologies involving data and artificial intelligence are playing in this mass scale repression and ethnic and religious forced assimilation. That iFlytek is involved in supplying technology to the police of the Xinjiang region, where the Uyghur people live, is not speculation but rather well evidenced and documented. Mass surveillance technology has assisted the Government to identify tens of thousands of people recommended for interrogation or detention in just one week.
Massey signed a funding agreement with iFlytek in 2017, a chinese artificial intelligence company worth around $15 billion. The arrangement involves the company funding the salary of an academic who splits their time working at Massey and at iFlytek.
The New Zealand Government has joined more than 20 countries in an official letter condemning the Chinese Government's treatment of the Uyghur people. Human Rights Watch has published an extensive reports exposing the complicity of iFlytek in the violence against the Uyghurs. The US has blacklisted the company. MBIE alerted Massey to the blacklisting “so it could consider any implications for itself”, but Massey has not responded.
Publicly funded institutions like Massey University have no place working in close collaboration, and sharing new technologies and research, with a company involved in these atrocities. Massey ending this funding agreement would send a signal that the world is watching what is happening to the Uyghur people and will not stand by with complicity.
Masseys ties with iFlytek: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2019/11/26/913921/massey-working-with-chinese-firm-blacklisted-over-human-rights#
A quick guide on the situation: https://aucklandpeaceaction.wordpress.com/2019/11/28/hard-to-imagine-mass-repression-of-uyghur-people-by-chinese-government/
More info on the camps and mass surveillance: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/11/secret-papers-reveal-workings-chinas-xinjiang-detention-camps-191125004212642.html
Human Rights Watch report on iFlytek: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/22/china-voice-biometric-collection-threatens-privacy