Chinese Surveillance Company Hikvision Hides Human Rights Abuses

April 29, 2020 Updated: April 29, 2020

WASHINGTON—The world’s largest camera manufacturer, Hikvision, which has come under increased scrutiny for its role in China’s human rights violations, is systematically hiding evidence about its operations, a new report reveals.

Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, the company behind China’s mass surveillance system, continues to work on large-scale projects at its research and development (R&D) center in China’s western Xinjiang region, according to IPVM, a surveillance research firm.

“Hikvision has systematically deleted evidence showing their R&D base and activities in Xinjiang, hiding them, amidst U.S. human rights abuse sanctions and increased scrutiny,” an IPVM report stated.

Hikvision was placed on a trade blacklist by the U.S. government in 2019 for its involvement in rights violations in China, including mass detention and surveillance. The company has come under severe criticism for providing its technology to the Chinese communist regime to repress Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

IPVM discovered that Hikvision deleted a map on its website that showed the location of its research facilities, including the one in Xinjiang. When IPVM asked why the map was deleted, the company responded, “Hikvision does not have a research institute in Xinjiang, and has corrected any information to the contrary on its website.”

The research company also found that Hikvision deleted all job ads posted on various websites soon after IPVM reached out for comment. Dozens of job postings have been deleted, according to IPVM.

One of the ads stated that the company was looking for a “senior system integration design engineer” for large-scale projects in its branch office at Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.

The company released its first environmental, social, and governance report in 2018 to address “the concerns of stakeholders.”

“Hikvision respects the human rights,” the report stated, adding that it hired Arent Fox LLP, a U.S. law firm to conduct a review of operations “to better protect human rights.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Hikvision’s press office for comment about the IPVM report but received no response.

A Chinese state-owned enterprise, China Electronics Technology Corp., owns nearly 42 percent of Hikvision through two subsidiaries, according to a report by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

The report, released in November 2019, stated that Hikvision “was directly involved in the construction, operation, and ongoing maintenance” of a centralized system that aggregates and analyzes large amounts of individuals’ data in Xinjiang.

The Chinese government may have arbitrarily detained individuals flagged by the system “in the internment camps or other detention facilities,” the report noted.

“Foreign suppliers such as Intel, Ambarella, and Nvidia reportedly sold computer processing chips and graphics chips to Hikvision, and the U.S. data storage company Seagate provided the company with ‘custom storage solutions’ for its surveillance systems,” the report added.

Hikvision supplies “total surveillance and racial profiling, which is providing an absolute horror to the Uyghur people; it’s creating a prototype for total surveillance elsewhere in China and potentially throughout the world,” Louisa Greve, director of global advocacy at the Uyghur Human Rights Project, a Washington-based nonprofit, told The Epoch Times.

Up to 1.8 million Uyghurs have been detained since the spring of 2017 in so-called re-education camps where they have been subjected to torture and brainwashing, according to Adrian Zenz, senior fellow in China Studies at the Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation. Zenz predicts that there are as many as 1,400 internment camps in the region.

Americans Unwittingly Fund Hikvision

Hikvision is listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange and is one of the Chinese companies that index provider Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) included in its emerging markets index.

Many U.S. investment funds hold shares of Hikvision and hence, U.S. pensioners are unaware that they’re funding the company.

Two of the nation’s largest public pension funds, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the New York State Teachers Retirement System (NYSTRS), hold large shares of Hangzhou Hikvision.

CalSTRS, the nation’s second-largest public pension fund, held 4.1 million shares worth $16.5 million as of June 30, 2019, according to the latest disclosure available. NYSTRS also held 81,802 shares of Hikvision as of June 2019.

CalPERS, the largest public pension fund in the United States, came under fire recently for holding $3.1 billion worth of shares in 172 different Chinese companies, including those that are involved in the Chinese Communist Party’s rights abuses. The fund held 24,800 shares of Hikvision worth $99,586 as of June 30, 2019.

The fund’s other Chinese investments include China Shipbuilding Industry Corp., the largest manufacturer of China’s navy ships, and China Communications Construction Co., which is the largest builder in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative.

CalPERS defended its investment in Chinese stocks on its website, stating that the MSCI and Financial Times Stock Exchange indexes “remain the most popular indexes for U.S.-based institutional investors investing in overseas equity markets.”

In an interview for The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders” program in March, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) said most state pension funds are guilty of investing in Chinese companies that build up the Chinese military.

“So this is a ripe moment for our nation’s governors to pull state pension funds out of dangerous Chinese investments. I hope that our governors will heed that call. California is the biggest offender of this,” he said.

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