IGF 2019 WS #129 Human rights and data governance in China

Organizer 1: Kai Mueller, International Campaign for Tibet
Organizer 2: Palmo Tenzin, International Campaign for Tibet
Organizer 3: Kate Saunders, International Campaign for Tibet

Speaker 1: Sharon Hom, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 2: Peter Irwin, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 3: Greg Walton, Technical Community, Asia-Pacific Group
Speaker 4: Kate Saunders, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Policy Question(s): 

- What is the role of new advanced technologies that China has announced as development priorities for the next several decades (including AI, big data, quantum computing) on ensuring an accountable transparent and inclusive data governance regime?
- How do current deployment of technologies such as AI and biometric data collection and storage, impact on international human rights protected under China’s international obligations and under international law?
- What are the long term implications of this data governance approach applied by the PRC to the global debate on data governance, in particular on norms and rules of data protection and privacy principles?
- What are the concerns and interests of various stakeholders—domestic and international—reflected in current debates? How are these concerns and interests impacted by China’s data governance approach, role in the market and development of these technologies?
- What is the particular impact on vulnerable or targeted communities, such as ethnic groups, such as Tibetans and Uighurs, or human rights defenders?

Relevance to Theme: Global developments in data governance are presumably going to be highly affected by the development of data governance in the People's Republic of China. Its development is examplary of the threats connected to the rapid digitisation of a society, with data processing, storage and usage used to curtail fundamental freedoms. China, as being one of the most influential actors on the international stage, already serves as a trendsetter in this regard. The workshop aims to identify these developments, to give voices to those vulnerable groups affected by this curtailment and to offer avenues for a human-centric data governance.

Relevance to Internet Governance: As a one-party state, the People’s Republic of China’s has become a key international leader in Internet governance and cyberspace debates. As it advances alternative models and approaches for human rights, democracy and rule of law, China is also aggressively pressing its concepts of Internet sovereignty and has developed a comprehensive approach aimed at ensuring Party control over the whole Internet ecosystem in China, with impacts beyond its borders. Supported by its cybersecurity law and regulations, official ideology, advanced surveillance and censorship technology, and investment in big data, AI, and quantum computing development priorities, China’s data governance regime also presents steep technology and human rights policy issues.

While the entire population has become subject to this architecture of digital control, particularly vulnerable groups, such as Tibetans and Uyghurs, have been targets of state repression, in addition to large scale crackdown on lawyers, detention of feminists, and other defenders. These restrictions on the legitimate exercise of rights are enabled by the enormous technology capacity of the authorities to track, collect, and store information about the activities of individuals and groups online and offline.
One important development that has received wide attention in the international media, is the development of a social credit system by the authorities, beginning as early as 2002. While the original concept was linked to a business-oriented goal, i.e. to establish a financial credit scoring system to support market reforms, the evolution of now a comprehensive social credit system seeks to put all members of society under an online credit infrastructure.


Panel - Auditorium - 90 Min

Description: The agenda of the workshop is to be as follows:
- briefing on overall development of the security architecture in the PRC and the usage of new data driven instruments with focus on legal and political backgrounds: Sharon Hom, HRiC
- briefing on the technological developments and things to come (AI, mass surveillance, "Social Credit System"): Greg Walton, Oxford Internet Institute
- briefing on impacts on vulnerable groups - Uyghurs: Peter Irwin, WUC
- briefing on impacts on vulnerable groups - Tibetans: Kate Saunders, International Campaign for Tibet
- way forward: Sharon Hom, HRiC
Followed by discussion, questions and answers.

Expected Outcomes: The session is to create awareness of the impacts of developments in China with regard to digitization, artificial intelligence, data processing and the internet, vis a vis human rights and vulnerable groups. The session should provide stakeholders with avenues to counter negative trends, which could provide for a human rights based data governance in the PRC, and beyond, on the global stage.

Onsite Moderator: 

Kai Mueller, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Online Moderator: 

Kai Mueller, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group


Kai Mueller, Civil Society, Asia-Pacific Group

Discussion Facilitation: 

The session should be facilitated through visual presentations. A moderator is to facilitate the session,and the question and answer part. Further facilitation is being explored.

Online Participation: 

Usage of IGF Tool

Proposed Additional Tools: The session should be streamed on social media, i.e. Facebook. We would love to make use of the Online Participation Platform.


GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequalities
GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions