MPs call for a ban on Chinese CCTV companies in the UK

video surveillance

Last year, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee urged the UK to follow suit by banning Chinese surveillance firms (Image: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

A group of 67 MPs have called on the UK government to ban the sale and use of Chinese surveillance equipment in the country.

The ban was proposed for widely used Chinese CCTV brands Hikvision and Dahua over their links to human rights abuses in China.

Ministers also called for “an independent national review of the scope, capabilities, ethical and legal implications of modern video surveillance in the UK”.

The move was backed by a cross-party group that includes Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey and four former Conservative ministers.

“The Chinese government’s video surveillance has nothing to do with surveilling the streets of Britain. Hikvision and Dahua are closely linked to the Xinjiang genocide and their high-tech, low-cost cameras are normalizing intrusive surveillance in the UK,” said Jake Hurfurt, director of research and investigations at Big Brother Watch.

Recent research by campaign group Big Brother Watch suggests that 73% of UK local authorities, 57% of English secondary schools and six in 10 NHS trusts, UK universities and police forces use company CCTV cameras.

video surveillance

73% of UK local authorities, 57% of secondary schools in England and six in ten NHS trusts use company CCTV cameras (Image: Unsplash)

Several ministries, including the interior ministry and the ministry for business, energy and industrial strategy, have deployed Hikvision cameras visible at the front of their buildings, according to the civil rights movement group.

The MPs’ statement follows a six-month investigation into thousands of freedom of information requests from Big Brother Watch.

Both companies, which are partly owned by the Chinese state, have been banned from trading in the US over security concerns and evidence of their use in so-called “re-education” camps in Xinjiang, where an estimated 1 million Uyghurs are being detained and subjected to abuse, torture and forced sterilization.

Last year the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons urged Britain to follow suit by banning Chinese surveillance firms.

A 2021 Foreign Affairs Select Committee report recommended that equipment manufactured by Hikvision and Dahua should not be authorized to operate in the UK.

But so far, the UK’s UK company ban committee’s recommendations have not been implemented.

Video surveillance in the tube

The move comes as debate on the Procurement Bill resumes in Parliament on Monday (Picture Unsplash)

“Hikvision and Dahua have previously established that they provide ethnicity profiling tools on their CCTV cameras in Xinjiang, and both companies have signed multiple deals to provide surveillance equipment to cities and concentration camps in the region,” Big Brother Watch said.

It pointed to security vulnerabilities found in Hikvision products, as it found that one of the company’s main remote viewing software tools connects directly to servers in China.

Hikvision responded by accusing anti-CCTV “fringe groups” of “demonizing” the company.

Dahua has said in the past that it “complies with all applicable local, national and international laws, regulations and conventions,” stating that it “has not developed and will never develop solutions that target any specific ethnic group.”

The move comes as discussion of the Procurement Bill resumes in Parliament on Monday.

A Big Brother Watch-backed amendment to the bill would allow potential suppliers to be barred over concerns about human rights abuses.

A recent proposal by Commissioner for Biometrics and Surveillance Cameras Fraser Sampson to include suppliers’ human rights records in rules governing the use of video surveillance by police and local authorities was rejected by the government.

As of 2022, with 13.35 CCTV cameras per 1000 people, London is among the best-surveilled cities, notorious for their tight surveillance of public spaces.

MORE : New CCTV footage shows Russian missile smashing into Ukrainian mall

MORE : Haunting portrait of weeping Uyghur Muslim in China’s ‘re-education’ camps. MPs call for a ban on Chinese CCTV companies in the UK

Justin Scacco

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