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Cross-party MPs urge ban on two Chinese CCTV companies citing ethics and security concerns

Hikvision and Dahua are used by over 60% of UK public bodies, despite widespread criticism around alleged ties to crimes in Xinjiang

A slightly out of focus CCTV camera points at a 45 degree to the right of the viewer, while a second camera that is in focus bearing the word 'Hikvision' points away from the viewer

67 MPs have called for the Chinese surveillance equipment firms Hikvision and Dahua to be banned from operating in the UK, citing security concerns and calling into question the ethics of both companies.

The group represents as broad a range of the political spectrum as one could expect, from right-wing eurosceptics like Steve Baker MP to Labour peer and director of Liberty Baroness Chakrabarti, leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas MP.

The civil liberties and privacy campaigning organisation Big Brother Watch published a report in February documenting the spread of surveillance equipment manufactured in China throughout the UK.

Of the public bodies who responded to their FOI requests, 60.8% use Chinese-made CCTV and 89% of these use Hikvision equipment specifically. Additionally, 12% of this figure uses Dahua equipment.

Both Hikvision and Dahua have been alleged by MPs to be the primary operators of CCTV in Uyghur internment camps operated by the Chinese government, part of ongoing acts within China that human rights group Amnesty International calls crimes against humanity, and the US government officially calls genocide.

Moreover, last year the LA Times broke a story alleging that Dahua has developed facial-recognition technology that can sort by race, with specific capabilities to warn operators when it detects Uyghur individuals.

The use of technology from companies with ties to the Chinese government has recently prompted widespread concern. BT is currently removing Huawei from the UK’s 5G network after a 2020 decision and the FCC last week cited major privacy concerns over the popular app TikTok, owned by Chinese company ByteDance, urging Apple and Google to ban it from their respective app stores.

The Foreign Affairs Committee published a report in 2021 specifically naming Hikvision and Dahua as companies whose equipment “should not be permitted to operate within the UK,” calling them companies “known to be associated with the Xinjiang atrocities.” Last month, the Department for Work and Pensions announced that it will remove Hikvision CCTV cameras from its offices.

Professor Fraser Sampson, the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, wrote a letter to the Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP last month concerning the risks to UK ethics and security posed by Chinese surveillance equipment. Within, he stated:

“[T]he publicly available evidence tells me that some of these companies - notably Hikvision and Dahua - simply cannot be trusted, partly because of concerns about the role they and their technology are believed to have played in perpetuating the appalling treatment of Uyghur Muslims as set out in the report of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee last year (and recognised in the government’s formal response), but also because of those companies’ absolute refusal to engage with even the most cursory level of public accountability in response to those concerns.”

In a statement given to It Pro, a Hikvision spokesperson rejected claims made against them:

“CCTV has always played a critical role in the UK in the fight against crime and terrorism. Hikvision is proud of the role we play in that.

“The UK also has fringe groups who would like to see a massive reduction of CCTV in the UK who are willing to throw allegations around about CCTV, and who would lie to demonise Hikvision.

“Hikvision has always worked with government bodies to provide solutions to the UK’s CCTV requirements.”

This article has been updated to include additional comments from Hikvision.

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