1999

iFlytek founded

Part Chinese government-owned information technology created, headquartered in Hefei, China. It makes voice recognition software and other voice-based tech.

2015

iFlytek outlines Xinjiang mission

An iFlytek official says the company’s goal in Xinjiang is to "promote the adoption of the national common language".

2017

NGO raises concerns about iFlytek

Human Rights Watch writes an open letter to iFlytek outlining its concerns about the company's role in collecting voice samples of Uyghurs. News media report the concerns.

2017

iFlytek robots teaching Uyghur children

A Chinese education news website reports on two IFlytek robots known as ‘the brothers’ given to a rural kindergarten in Xinjiang to teach Uyghur children Mandarin.

2018

iFlytek made “AI champion”

The Chinese government makes IFlytek one of five official AI champions, giving it a favourable regulatory status which analysts say means it has no obstacles - for instance civil liberties concerns - to developing its technology.

2018

iFlytek-MIT deal

Flytek signs five-year agreement with America’s MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

16 October
2018

NZ Government becomes shareholder in Rocos Global

The Government takes a stake in robotics start-up company Rocos Global through the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

March
2019

Icehouse Ventures-iFlytek partnership

Icehouse Ventures, the investment arm of New Zealand business incubator The Icehouse, signs a partnership with iFlytek. CEO Andrew Hamilton says he’s unaware of the allegations involving surveillance of Uyghurs, but that he will “watch for any developments”.

June
2019

Testimony to US senate committee

iFlytek features in Human Rights Watch testimony to a US senate committee about human rights violations in China.

August
2019

Rocos-IFlytek partnership

Auckland-based robot operations company Rocos Global signs a partnership deal with iFlytek, which iFlytek says means "the two sides will carry out all-round cooperation". The agreement will see Rocos managing delivery robots at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Rocos appears happy to promote the relationship.

rocos twitter post

October
2019

US puts iFlytek on trade blacklist

The US Commerce Department puts iFlytek on its “Entity List”, which restricts it from doing business with American firms, saying “these entities have been implicated in human rights violations” against minority Muslim groups in Xinjiang.

February
2020

MIT cuts ties

Two years into the “research collaboration”, MIT reportedly terminates the relationship.

February
2020

iFlytek appears on forced labour database

iFlytek named by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute as one of 82 foreign and Chinese companies potentially or indirectly benefiting from the use of forced Uyghur labour.

March
2020

Government increases shareholding in Rocos

The shareholding of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (now known as NZGCP, owner of Aspire NZ Seed Fund) is tripled.

August
2020

Confirmation Rocos knows of issues with IFlytek

CEO David Inggs tells a Stuff journalist that Rocos’ partnership with iFlytek is for commercial robots only and the platform is not “used for any military or police applications”.

December
2020

Stuff Circuit approaches Rocos Global

Stuff Circuit asks Rocos Global about its work in China.

19 January
2021

Stuff Circuit request

Stuff Circuit asks for an interview with Rocos CEO David Inggs.

19 January
2021

Stuff Circuit approaches The Icehouse

Stuff Circuit asks for an interview with The Icehouse over the partnership with iFlytek. Request declined. Stuff Circuit reiterates request for interview.

January 22
2021

Rocos declines

Rocos’ Chief Marketing Officer emails to say “we will respectfully decline your request for an interview... As Rocos has no involvement”.

2 February
2021

Stuff Circuit follows up with The Icehouse

The Icehouse CEO Gavin Lennox replies by phone; Stuff Circuit outlines the concerns about iFlytek. He says he will look into it.

3 February
2021

Stuff Circuit calls Rocos

Stuff Circuit phones Rocos CEO David Inggs to ask what Rocos “has no involvement” in. He asks us to put questions in an email, which we do, seeking clarification of previous statements that by Rocos can ringfence its technology for commercial purposes only.

4 February
2021

Icehouse responds

Icehouse Ventures emails Stuff Circuit to say its board has requested an investigation into the relationship with IFlytek.

5 February
2021

Rocos ends partnership with iFlytek

Rocos Chief Marketing Officer emails Stuff Circuit to say “Rocos is no longer involved in any projects with iFlytek.”

February
2021

Publicity shy

Rocos appears to have deleted its tweet celebrating its role with iFlytek at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

rocos twitter post removed

16 March
2021

Stuff Circuit publishes Deleted

Stuff Circuit investigation published outlining the government’s financial links to iFlytek through Rocos and Icehouse Ventures.

17 March
2021

Initial Government response

Finance Minister Grant Robertson wants answers over links to iFlytek.

17 March
2021

Third company link

Stuff Circuit reveals third govt-backed company partnered with iFlytek.

15 April
2021

Icehouse breaks up with iFlytek

Icehouse Ventures review leads to cancellation of relationship with iFlytek.

1999

iFlytek founded

Part Chinese government-owned information technology created, headquartered in Hefei, China. It makes voice recognition software and other voice-based tech.

2015

iFlytek outlines Xinjiang mission

An iFlytek official says the company’s goal in Xinjiang is to "promote the adoption of the national common language".

2017

NGO raises concerns about iFlytek

Human Rights Watch writes an open letter to iFlytek outlining its concerns about the company's role in collecting voice samples of Uyghurs. News media report the concerns.

2017

iFlytek robots teaching Uyghur children

A Chinese education news website reports on two IFlytek robots known as ‘the brothers’ given to a rural kindergarten in Xinjiang to teach Uyghur children Mandarin.

2018

iFlytek made “AI champion”

The Chinese government makes IFlytek one of five official AI champions, giving it a favourable regulatory status which analysts say means it has no obstacles - for instance civil liberties concerns - to developing its technology.

2018

iFlytek-MIT deal

Flytek signs five-year agreement with America’s MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

16 October
2018

NZ Government becomes shareholder in Rocos Global

The Government takes a stake in robotics start-up company Rocos Global through the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund.

March
2019

Icehouse Ventures-iFlytek partnership

Icehouse Ventures, the investment arm of New Zealand business incubator The Icehouse, signs a partnership with iFlytek. CEO Andrew Hamilton says he’s unaware of the allegations involving surveillance of Uyghurs, but that he will “watch for any developments”.

June
2019

Testimony to US senate committee

iFlytek features in Human Rights Watch testimony to a US senate committee about human rights violations in China.

August
2019

Rocos-IFlytek partnership

Auckland-based robot operations company Rocos Global signs a partnership deal with iFlytek, which iFlytek says means "the two sides will carry out all-round cooperation". The agreement will see Rocos managing delivery robots at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Rocos appears happy to promote the relationship.

rocos twitter post

October
2019

US puts iFlytek on trade blacklist

The US Commerce Department puts iFlytek on its “Entity List”, which restricts it from doing business with American firms, saying “these entities have been implicated in human rights violations” against minority Muslim groups in Xinjiang.

February
2020

MIT cuts ties

Two years into the “research collaboration”, MIT reportedly terminates the relationship.

February
2020

iFlytek appears on forced labour database

iFlytek named by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute as one of 82 foreign and Chinese companies potentially or indirectly benefiting from the use of forced Uyghur labour.

March
2020

Government increases shareholding in Rocos

The shareholding of the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund (now known as NZGCP, owner of Aspire NZ Seed Fund) is tripled.

August
2020

Confirmation Rocos knows of issues with IFlytek

CEO David Inggs tells a Stuff journalist that Rocos’ partnership with iFlytek is for commercial robots only and the platform is not “used for any military or police applications”.

December
2020

Stuff Circuit approaches Rocos Global

Stuff Circuit asks Rocos Global about its work in China.

19 January
2021

Stuff Circuit request

Stuff Circuit asks for an interview with Rocos CEO David Inggs.

19 January
2021

Stuff Circuit approaches The Icehouse

Stuff Circuit asks for an interview with The Icehouse over the partnership with iFlytek. Request declined. Stuff Circuit reiterates request for interview.

January 22
2021

Rocos declines

Rocos’ Chief Marketing Officer emails to say “we will respectfully decline your request for an interview... As Rocos has no involvement”.

2 February
2021

Stuff Circuit follows up with The Icehouse

The Icehouse CEO Gavin Lennox replies by phone; Stuff Circuit outlines the concerns about iFlytek. He says he will look into it.

3 February
2021

Stuff Circuit calls Rocos

Stuff Circuit phones Rocos CEO David Inggs to ask what Rocos “has no involvement” in. He asks us to put questions in an email, which we do, seeking clarification of previous statements that by Rocos can ringfence its technology for commercial purposes only.

4 February
2021

Icehouse responds

Icehouse Ventures emails Stuff Circuit to say its board has requested an investigation into the relationship with IFlytek.

5 February
2021

Rocos ends partnership with iFlytek

Rocos Chief Marketing Officer emails Stuff Circuit to say “Rocos is no longer involved in any projects with iFlytek.”

February
2021

Publicity shy

Rocos appears to have deleted its tweet celebrating its role with iFlytek at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

rocos twitter post removed

16 March
2021

Stuff Circuit publishes Deleted

Stuff Circuit investigation published outlining the government’s financial links to iFlytek through Rocos and Icehouse Ventures.

17 March
2021

Initial Government response

Finance Minister Grant Robertson wants answers over links to iFlytek.

17 March
2021

Third company link

Stuff Circuit reveals third govt-backed company partnered with iFlytek.

15 April
2021

Icehouse breaks up with iFlytek

Icehouse Ventures review leads to cancellation of relationship with iFlytek.

The Stuff Circuit documentary Deleted investigates New Zealand business and political links to human rights abuses in China, on stuff.co.nz

watch the documentary
Made with the support of

If you value fearless investigative journalism, please consider supporting Stuff. Make a contributionarrow

Why? Because our Stuff Circuit team delivers challenging stories that matter. Circuit's confronting documentaries on topics as diverse as abortion, NZ's legacy in Afghanistan, and online radicalisation are the result of months of dogged reporting.

Stuff’s ethical reporting is built on accuracy, fairness and balance. With millions of New Zealanders turning to us every day, it’s our mission to make Aotearoa a better place.

But the way journalism is funded is changing and we need your help.

If you appreciate the work of Stuff Circuit, please consider becoming a supporter. You can make a contribution from as little as $1. Be part of our story, and help us tell yours.

Become a supporterarrow