With an Amazon logo Behind him and in front of him Shanghai’s evolving enterprise illuminated from the capital scene, the executive on stage distributing his pitch. His company, Rainway Electronics, helps Chinese authorities track detainees and detainees – alerting guards about their movements and even installing heart rate monitors.
The runway has set up its “smart prison” system in China’s Xinjiang region, where more than one million Muslims are being held captive.
Yet it did not interfere with the warm welcome to the runway at an event hosted by an Amazon-backed “joint innovation center” in November. Event organizers have given the executive of Rainway a platform to give an “investor road show” – style speech – one of China’s most prestigious investors. And Rainway has received a “Product Innovation Award” recognizing it as one of the six “Outstanding Entrepreneurial Organizations”.
A detailed list of questions has been sent, Amazon declined to comment on the record. Rainway did not respond to a request for comment.
A growing list of a number of corporations is under pressure to move their supply chains away from Xinjiang, amid evidence of mass arrests and forced labor there, with the United States and other countries recently calling for a genocide. Congress is considering a bill to ban imports from Xinjiang, which is stigmatized by forced labor, and U.S. Customs has already imposed bans on products made from tomatoes and cotton, other products in the region.
Amazon closed its e-commerce business in China in 2019, but other parts of its vast empire still work with Chinese customers, including its highly profitable cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services.
AWS operates joint innovation centers with local Shanghai governments and business organizations. According to an ad at the event, AWS promotes startups with cloud resources and tech support and by acquiring their talents and complying with government regulations. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. The Centre’s website emphasizes that companies that support it also benefit from Amazon’s wealth and reputation.
Horizon Advisory, a Washington, D.C.-based geopolitical advisory firm, first noted the Amazon event at the Renway Awards and Research, which it shared with BuzzFeed News.
Renway technology has been used in various prisons in China, including the Zhangjiajiang Prison near the city of Shijiazhuang. The prison is run by the powerful Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, a paramilitary and government agency that banned the United States last year, citing its links to human rights abuses in the region.
BuzzFeed News The prison in Shaanxi County, Xinjiang, is located using satellite imagery. An official photo of the prison posted in 2016 shows a front gate with a wide iron work and a statue of a lion to the left of the entrance. Behind the gate, a road leads to a two- to three-story building. A white wall and rows and rows of trees run along the road. A Google Earth image shows the shadow of the gate on the ground, a light-colored object about 2.5 meters high that matches the statue of the lion and is seen with the same east-west wall and rows of trees. The roof of the building in the background also matches the picture.
The Chinese government has forced one million Muslim minorities, including Uighurs, Kazakhs, Hui Muslims and others, into mass detention camps over the past four years. A BuzzFeed News investigation last year found that the government has dramatically increased its campaign since 2017, creating hundreds of new compounds, including intern camp and prison features. Abuse, deprivation and internal humiliation have been described inside the dozens of people previously detained, ranging from mob and food deprivation to beatings and even torture. The government says the interim camp system is meant to “transform through education” and divert extremists.
Official data analyzed by the New York Times shows that Xinjiang’s prison population has also been ballooning at this time – the region accounted for 21% of the country’s total arrests in 2017 for just 2% of the population. Muslim minorities make up about half of Xinjiang’s population. China’s Communist Party-controlled courts have convicted more than a dozen people, according to official figures.
Prisons in many parts of the world, including the United States, use data-driven systems to monitor and control detainees. But in Xinjiang, the government’s propaganda specifically detracts from ethnic minorities’ religious practices, connections with families abroad, or other behaviors viewed as suspicious or a threat to the state.
Rainway describes its system as “an important platform for improving the management capabilities of digital prisons through information technology.” It uses image processing, data encryption, cloud computing and “big data” to establish a “staff location system” that can be monitored remotely, the company says. Data is funneled into a centralized platform that authorities can use for “management decision making”.
Rainway says it improves efficiency, and helps prison staff “gain new ideas for prevention, new incident control and post-incident verification.” Rainway says an early warning system signals when police are attacked, and when detainees enter their restricted area. Detainees can be fitted with electronic devices that monitor their heart rate and other vital signs “to reduce law enforcement risks”. Rainway says the system prevents people from fleeing or committing suicide.
High-tech surveillance is a feature of Xinjiang’s camp and prison life. More than two dozen people previously detained there told BuzzFeed News that they were being monitored in real time by cameras placed in the corners of their cameras and even in the bathroom. Guards can punish them for minor losses, such as speaking their mother tongue instead of Mandarin Chinese.
The runway is also recognized by China’s Ministry of Homeland Security, Public Security. The company was present at a ministry promotional conference attended by the deputy minister of the department and other government officials.
In addition to the Shanghai Venture Capitalist, 1. Audiences at the November, 2020 Amazon event included executives from multinational giants such as Siemens and No Elevator, according to a press release about the event.
On stage, the Rainway executive spent about 11 minutes with a PowerPoint presentation that went through every aspect of the business, noting that the system could be used not only in prisons, but also in detention centers. In the end, he looked at the investors and asked them questions. 3
April 20, 2021, at 19:55 PM
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Shanghai-Amazon Joint Innovation Center on the Rainway Executive platform thanked the Center for its support.