UK Biometrics Commissioner: Hikvision in social control surveillance joint enterprise with Chinese State
Hikvision is contracted for 21 years for joint enterprises with the Chinese State on social control projects in Xinjiang Autonomous Region, contradicting the company’s stance that it has no control over the use of its equipment after installation, according to evidence cited in a letter from the UK’s Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner. Taiwan also announces a ban on China tech from companies including Hikvision and Dahua.
New details on Hikvision’s potential practices are being flushed out via a series of correspondence between Fraser Sampson, the UK Biometric and Surveillance Camera Commissioner; Justin Hollis, Marketing Director of Hikvision UK & Ireland and former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Pierre-Richard Prosper, a lawyer retained by Hikvision “to advise the company regarding human rights compliance” according to one Hikvision letter and to conduct an independent review of the company’s business in Xinjiang and human rights compliance, according to another.
The letters, made public by the British government, build up a picture of what is being discussed around the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee report “Never again: the UK’s responsibility to act on atrocities in Xinjiang and beyond”. The stance has moved on from whether atrocities are being committed in Xinjiang and on to what the UK should do about them, notes Sampson, as the committee proposed a ban on Hikvision and Dahua equipment.
Commissioner Sampson’s most recent letter, to Pierre-Richard Prosper, advisor to Hikvision, critiques and seeks to clarify the points made in Hikvision marketing director Justin Hollis’s August 10 letter.
Hollis wrote: “It is also worth stating that we do not oversee and control our devices once they are passed to installers and we have no access to our devices without users’ authorisation. Operational matters are not within our remit”.
Sampson has found documentary evidence – not published with the letters – which suggests that Hikvision’s involvement in five projects in Xinjiang may go way beyond installation:
“For example, the public procurement by Zhongzhao International Tendering Co Ltd. (ref. TC179H2TH) shared with our office refers to the award of a contract for the PiShan County Social Prevention and Control System. This contract is to work in close partnership with the government to ‘Design, Build, Finance, Operate & Transfer’ the system. It refers to a ‘co-operation system’ the contractual life cycle of which is 21 years, of which the construction period is 1 year.
“‘Co-operation’ connotes actively and willingly working with others to achieve an outcome and the winning bidder and delivery partner for this high value (335.99m youan [sic]) ‘social prevention and control programme’ is Hangzhou Hikvision System Technology Co. Ltd.”
In his previous letter on July 16 to Hollis, Sampson wrote:
“However, you will know that much legitimate public concern in the area of oppression-by-surveillance comes, less from ‘deliberate intent’ or ‘wilful disregard’ (the threshold for which is notoriously difficult to satisfy), and more from third parties ‘looking the other way’ or failing to speak out when that is the only right thing to do – something which, it seems to me, is the elemental premise of the Committee’s report as regards an appropriate response from the UK.
“Is it your position that Hikvision had no knowledge of the use(s) of its surveillance camera systems in the internment facilities? This would seem to be incongruous with your welcome assurance that Hikvision “hold our products to the industry’s highest global cybersecurity standards” and I think clarity is particularly important here.”
Hollis wrote in his August 10 letter: “You asked if we could from the outset explain whether we accept that crimes are being committed against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region. As a global enterprise and manufacturer, we believe Hikvision is not a competent arbiter to decide on this matter. Moreover, it is beyond our capability to make a judgement on this matter, particularly against a backdrop where the debate surrounding the Xinjiang issue comes with clashing geopolitical views”.
The exchange looks likely to continue.
The U.S. stopped investment in Hikvision as well as banning federal contractors to use equipment from biometric surveillance suppliers Hikvision, Dahua and Huawei. The latter is currently facing further issues in Serbia and the U.S.
Taiwan government PRC tech ban comes into effect
Taiwan has banned Hikvision and Dahua tech products across its government and ordered equipment to be removed by the end of 2021 as such equipment is seen as a threat to national cybersecurity, reports IPVM (subscription required and recommended). The ban was initially announced in January 2021.
The ban also covers software and services “in order to avoid theft of government and intelligence information” and avoid “risking national cybersecurity,” reports IPVM.
Government employees can keep their own personal devices from listed manufacturers, but must not use them for any government work.