How U.S. Tech Giant Are Helping To Build China's Surveillance State
HOW U.S. TECH GIANTS ARE HELPING TO
BUILD CHINA’S SURVEILLANCE STATE
Chinese state security agencies are likely using the technology to target human rights activists.
Aegis equipment has been placed within China’s phone and internet networks, enabling the country’s government to secretly collect people’s email records, phone calls, text messages, cellphone locations, and web browsing histories, according to two sources familiar with Semptian’s work.
Semptian has benefited from the collaboration with American companies, gaining access to specialized knowledge and new technologies. The Chinese firm boasts on its website that it is “actively working with world-class companies such as IBM and Xilinx”; it claims that it is the only company in the Asia-Pacific region that can provide its customers with new data-processing devices that were developed with the help of these U.S. companies.
“Sometimes it seems like there’s a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ policy.”
It is unclear why the U.S. tech giants have chosen to work with Semptian; the decision may have been taken as part of a broader strategy to establish closer ties with China and gain greater access to the East Asian country’s lucrative marketplace. A spokesperson for the OpenPower Foundation declined to answer questions about the organization’s work with Semptian, saying only that “technology available through the Foundation is general purpose, commercially available worldwide, and does not require a U.S. export license.”
Semptian, which was founded in 2003, has been a trusted partner of China’s government for years. The regime has awarded the company “National High-Tech Enterprise” status, meaning that it passed various reviews and audits conducted by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Companies that receive this special status are rewarded with preferential treatment from the government in the form of tax breaks and other support.