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A cross-party group of MPs is calling on the British government to follow the US’ lead in banning the sale and use of Chinese-made CCTV surveillance cameras.
The 67 parliamentarians say that surveillance cameras supplied by partly Chinese state-owned CCTV manufacturers Hikvision and Dahua have been supplying surveillance equipment, which includes ethnicity profiling tools, for cities and concentration camps in Xinjiang.
Here, an estimated one million Uyghurs have been detained and reportedly and subjected to abuse, torture and forced sterilisation.
Meanwhile, according to Freedom of Information requests from campaign group Big Brother Watch, 73 per cent of councils across the UK, 57 per cent of secondary schools in England, and 60 per cent of NHS Trusts are using CCTV systems made by the two companies, as are a number of universities and police forces.
The AI-equipped cameras are capable of facial detection, gender recognition and behavioural analysis, and offer advanced features such as identifying fights or if someone is wearing a face mask.
“Chinese state-owned CCTV has no place watching Britain’s streets. Hikvision and Dahua are closely linked to the genocide in Xinjiang and their low-cost, high-tech cameras are normalising intrusive surveillance in the UK,” says Jake Hurfurt, head of research and investigations at Big Brother Watch.
“It is horrifying that companies that provide the technological infrastructure for Beijing’s crimes against humanity provide cameras to 61 per cent of public bodies in the UK.”
Hikvision and Dahua are already banned from trading in the US, for security reasons as well as human rights concerns. However, despite calls for the US to follow suit from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, no action has been taken.
Indeed, according to Big Brother Watch, a number of government departments, including the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), have Hikvision cameras visibly in use on the front of their buildings.
“UK taxpayers should not be paying for human rights abusing Chinese tech, let alone doing so on such an extraordinary scale,” says Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.
“We mustn’t support abuses over there or replicate a China-style surveillance state over here. We need an urgent and fully independent review of surveillance in modern Britain.”
The parliamentarians are calling for a full ban on technology from the two companies, along with an independent national review of the scale, capabilities, ethics, and rights impact of modern CCTV in the UK.
“This technology comes equipped with advance surveillance capabilities such as facial recognition, person tracking and gender identification. These pose a significant threat to civil liberties in our country,” says David Davis MP.
“But in addition to the privacy concerns, these companies, Hikvision and Dahua, are Chinese state-owned companies, raising urgent questions over whether they also pose a threat to national security. The US has already blacklisted the companies.”
Update – Hikvision has provided a statement: “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.”