Xinjiang University


Xinjiang University (XJU) is designated medium risk for its role in language and facial recognition of ethnic minorities.

Xinjiang University is jointly overseen by the Ministry of Education and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. XJU was selected as one of 42 ‘world-class’ universities under the Ministry of Education’s Double First Class University Plan—a plan that seeks to improve the global standing of China’s elite universities. ; ; ; ; XJU is recognised for its programs in computer science and technology, chemistry and Marxist philosophy.

XJU conducts extensive research on minority language speech recognition technology. This technology can be applied to biometric databases used by the government and police to track ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. ; As early as 2008, XJU cooperated with Tsinghua University and Beijing Jietong Huasheng Technology—a company that develops text to speech technology—to conduct research on Uyghur language recognition and synthesis.

In 2017, the Ministry of Education’s Department of Language Information Management (教育部语言文字信息管理司), the Department of Language Application and Administration (语言文字应用管理司) and XJU jointly established the State Language Commission ‘Multi-Language Information Technology Research Centre’ (国家语委 “多语种信息技术研究中心”). The Centre’s work includes research on minority languages in Xinjiang, natural language processing and speech recognition. XJU is also home to the Xinjiang Key Laboratory of Multi-Language Information Technology (新疆多语种信息技术重点实验室), which focuses on the research and development of multi-language information processing and system software.

A professor in the College of Information Science and Engineering specialises in Uyghur voice recognition technology and led a government-funded project on minority language automatic speech recognition technology. He previously worked for iFlytek—an artificial intelligence company on the US Entity List that produces 80 percent of all speech recognition technology in China. ;

In 2010, Xinjiang University and iFlytek established the Speech and Language Joint Laboratory (新疆大学讯飞语音及语言联合实验室). Through the joint lab, iFlytek plans to leverage XJU’s Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Arabic language expertise to make contributions in the ‘speech and language information industry.’ Research conducted under the joint lab could contribute towards developing iFlytek’s automatic speech recognition technology.

In 2019, XJU purchased a facial recognition system to monitor its student population. ; This procurement was an extension of a previous project and requires the university have a data collection platform to support the system. ; The system was supplied by Urumqi Shunda Baisheng Information Technology Co., Ltd. (乌鲁木齐顺达百盛信息科技有限公司),  which is a company involved in information transmission, software and information technology services.

Economic espionage and misconduct

As of 2018, at least 56 Uyghur lecturers and researchers from Xinjiang University were held in re-education camps. In 2017, Tashpolat Tiyip—head of Xinjiang University and a leading geographer—disappeared. Academics and friends who knew him believe he was convicted of separatism and received the death penalty, though there is no official confirmation. Since Tiyip’s disappearance, a Han Chinese was appointed as president of Xinjiang University in 2020, the first non-Uyghur president in the university’s history.

Defence and security links

Xinjiang University cooperates with the PLA Xinjiang Military Command. In 2017, XJU established Xinjiang’s first military-civil fusion bases, including the University Students Patriotism and National Defence Education Base and the National Defence Student Ideological and Political Education Practice Base. Additionally, Xinjiang University’s Red Cultural Education Base was listed as part of the Red Army Division of Xinjiang Military Region in an effort to promote talent cultivation. Previously in 2016, Xinjiang University sent students to serve as Uyghur language instructors for military organisations, where students would regularly conduct Uyghur language instruction for government officials.

Noteworthy international collaborations

XJU has established three Confucius Institutes in Russia and Kyrgyzstan.

Last updated 17 May 2021. Unclear about any wording? Visit the terminology page.