UBC conference faces criticism over speaker from tech company blacklisted in U.S.

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The UBC sign is pictured at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver on April 23, 2019. A conference hosted by University of British Columbia students is facing criticism for having a speaker from a Chinese company that has been blacklisted by the United States over links to the repression of China's Muslim minority. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER — A conference hosted by University of British Columbia students is facing criticism for having a speaker from a Chinese company that has been blacklisted by the United States over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority.

The UBC China Forum, a business conference organized by members of the university’s BizChina Club, lists SenseTime executive director Jimmy Zhou as one of its confirmed speakers.

The artificial intelligence company, which produces facial recognition software among its core technologies, was one of eight companies blacklisted by the U.S. last month for being implicated in China’s repression and mass detention of the country’s Uyghur community.

Mehmet Tohti of the Uyghur Canadian Society said it was shocking that an executive from the company is being given a platform in Canada to advance Chinese interests.

UBC directed questions on speakers at the event to the BizChina group because it is a student-run event. The group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SenseTime has said it is misunderstood and is actively developing its artificial intelligence code of ethics. It said it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision by the U.S. to blacklist the firm.

The Canadian Press

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