UK Government Urged to Clarify Position on Buying Hikvision Surveillance Cameras

The UK’s central and local government ministers have been challenged to clarify their positions on buying surveillance cameras from a company partly owned by the Chinese regime, according to correspondence published on Monday.The Home Office’s independent Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Professor Fraser Sampson wrote to ministers last week about his concerns over Hikvision cameras following a recent report by The Telegraph that said Health Secretary Sajid Javid had banned his department from buying security cameras from the Chinese company after a procurement review revealed “ethical concerns.” In his letters to Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Michael Gove, who is responsible for local government, Sampson said the rationale behind Javid’s reported decision “must apply equally across all government departments, devolved administrations, and local authorities.” The commissioner also said he will soon publish advice under the Home Secretary’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice to “assist relevant authorities meet their human rights and ethical obligations in the use of public space surveillance.” Picture of Hikvision cameras in an electronic mall in Beijing on May 24, 2019. (Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images) Hikvision and Dahua, the world’s top manufacturers of surveillance cameras, have been blacklisted by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for posing a threat to American national security. Both firms, which are ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, are known to supply surveillance equipment that has been used to target Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region. A report published in February has revealed that around 2,800 British public bodies, or 60.8 percent of all public bodies, may have been using surveillance equipment produced by the two controversial Chinese companies. Sampson told the ministers that he had been concerned about “the clear ethical and human rights issues involved in public procurement of surveillance technology from companies associated with atrocities in China” since he was appointed to be the surveillance camera commissioner, and had been increasingly concerned about “the security risks presented by some state-controlled surveillance systems covering our public spaces.” Sampson said surveillance technology is heavily relied upon in the “widespread, systematic human rights violations” in Xinjiang, which had been formally recognised by the UK government. A Dahua thermal camera takes a man’s temperature during a demonstration of the technology in San Francisco, Calif., on April 24, 2020. (Lewis Surveillance/Handout via Reuters) According to a report (pdf) published on July 8, 2021, by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Hikvision cameras had been “deployed throughout Xinjiang” and provided “the primary camera technology used in the internment camps.” Sampson told the ministers that he had repeatedly asked Hikvision “whether they accept that such things are even taking place and to clarify the extent of any involvement they have had in those camps” as revealed by the committee. “More than 8 months later they have yet to answer those questions,” he wrote. The Foreign Affairs Committee report also raised witnesses’ concerns that facial recognition cameras in the UK that are made by companies such as Hikvision were “collecting facial recognition data, which can then be used by the Chinese government.” The committee recommended the government ban “equipment manufactured by companies such as Hikvision and Dahua” in the UK, and sanction companies known to be associated with the Xinjiang atrocities. Sampson said with public space surveillance becoming “increasingly intrusive,” and cameras coming with dormant built-in functions that can be “switched on remotely,” it has become increasingly important to reassure the public about what the cameras are not doing, “whether that is in our streets, our sports grounds, or our schools. ” “This is increasingly difficult to detect technically and requires transparency and due diligence by all concerned in public space surveillance activity,” he said. The commissioner added that under U.N. principles, all businesses are required provide enough information to “evaluate the adequacy of an enterprise’s response to the particular human rights impact involved” so due diligence can be carried out regarding “human rights or security considerations.” “For surveillance companies to refuse to provide necessary information is not only unacceptable; it also makes the provision of necessary public assurance impossible,” he said. The UK government’s Cabinet Office; the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; the Department of Health and Social Care; and Hikvision have been contacted for comment. Follow Lily Zhou is a freelance wri

UK Government Urged to Clarify Position on Buying Hikvision Surveillance Cameras

The UK’s central and local government ministers have been challenged to clarify their positions on buying surveillance cameras from a company partly owned by the Chinese regime, according to correspondence published on Monday.

The Home Office’s independent Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Professor Fraser Sampson wrote to ministers last week about his concerns over Hikvision cameras following a recent report by The Telegraph that said Health Secretary Sajid Javid had banned his department from buying security cameras from the Chinese company after a procurement review revealed “ethical concerns.”

In his letters to Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis, Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, and Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Michael Gove, who is responsible for local government, Sampson said the rationale behind Javid’s reported decision “must apply equally across all government departments, devolved administrations, and local authorities.”

The commissioner also said he will soon publish advice under the Home Secretary’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice to “assist relevant authorities meet their human rights and ethical obligations in the use of public space surveillance.”

Epoch Times Photo
Picture of Hikvision cameras in an electronic mall in Beijing on May 24, 2019. (Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images)

Hikvision and Dahua, the world’s top manufacturers of surveillance cameras, have been blacklisted by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for posing a threat to American national security.

Both firms, which are ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, are known to supply surveillance equipment that has been used to target Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region.

A report published in February has revealed that around 2,800 British public bodies, or 60.8 percent of all public bodies, may have been using surveillance equipment produced by the two controversial Chinese companies.

Sampson told the ministers that he had been concerned about “the clear ethical and human rights issues involved in public procurement of surveillance technology from companies associated with atrocities in China” since he was appointed to be the surveillance camera commissioner, and had been increasingly concerned about “the security risks presented by some state-controlled surveillance systems covering our public spaces.”

Sampson said surveillance technology is heavily relied upon in the “widespread, systematic human rights violations” in Xinjiang, which had been formally recognised by the UK government.

Dahua thermal camera
A Dahua thermal camera takes a man’s temperature during a demonstration of the technology in San Francisco, Calif., on April 24, 2020. (Lewis Surveillance/Handout via Reuters)

According to a report (pdf) published on July 8, 2021, by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, Hikvision cameras had been “deployed throughout Xinjiang” and provided “the primary camera technology used in the internment camps.”

Sampson told the ministers that he had repeatedly asked Hikvision “whether they accept that such things are even taking place and to clarify the extent of any involvement they have had in those camps” as revealed by the committee.

“More than 8 months later they have yet to answer those questions,” he wrote.

The Foreign Affairs Committee report also raised witnesses’ concerns that facial recognition cameras in the UK that are made by companies such as Hikvision were “collecting facial recognition data, which can then be used by the Chinese government.”

The committee recommended the government ban “equipment manufactured by companies such as Hikvision and Dahua” in the UK, and sanction companies known to be associated with the Xinjiang atrocities.

Sampson said with public space surveillance becoming “increasingly intrusive,” and cameras coming with dormant built-in functions that can be “switched on remotely,” it has become increasingly important to reassure the public about what the cameras are not doing, “whether that is in our streets, our sports grounds, or our schools. ”

“This is increasingly difficult to detect technically and requires transparency and due diligence by all concerned in public space surveillance activity,” he said.

The commissioner added that under U.N. principles, all businesses are required provide enough information to “evaluate the adequacy of an enterprise’s response to the particular human rights impact involved” so due diligence can be carried out regarding “human rights or security considerations.”

“For surveillance companies to refuse to provide necessary information is not only unacceptable; it also makes the provision of necessary public assurance impossible,” he said.

The UK government’s Cabinet Office; the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities; the Department of Health and Social Care; and Hikvision have been contacted for comment.


Follow

Lily Zhou is a freelance writer mostly covering UK news for The Epoch Times.