Mapping China’s ‘re-education’ camps: the power of open-source intelligence

Danielle Cave, Fergus Ryan and Nathan Ruser:

But what is intelligence?

For the answer, let’s go straight to the wisdom of the Middle Kingdom and poor, overused Sun Tzu, who said: ‘If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles.’ This tells us what we need intelligence to do for us, but what isn’t well understood is that much of the information we need isn’t ‘secret’ or ‘classified’. It is often by combining publicly available and hidden information that we can reveal covert or clandestine intent.

As demonstrated by the Bellingcat investigation into the Skripal poisoning and the revelations about Strava’s fitness heatmap (which one of us highlighted earlier this year), in the OSINT world, the devil is in the detail.

That detail lives in cyberspace, and cyberspace is an OSINT goldmine when you know how to use it and where to look.

Over the past few months, ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) has leveraged its cyber, technical and Chinese-language skills to consolidate and expand on the rich and growing body of work that is shedding a brighter light on the Chinese state’s network of ‘re-education’ camps in Xinjiang province.