‘Malicious’: GOP Lawmaker Slams Chinese Surveillance Giant for Attempting to Interfere With Congress

By Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on U.S. and China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
and Steve Lance
Steve Lance
Steve Lance
Steve Lance is the host of Capitol Report, a political news show based in Washington aimed at providing a direct channel to the voices and people who shape policy in America. Capitol Report features all of the political news of the day with expert interviews and analysis.
January 28, 2022 Updated: January 30, 2022

U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) has criticized Chinese video surveillance giant Hikvision over “very malicious and malevolent” attempts to interfere with U.S. government protocols and silence dissenting voices.

“It is really just no business of a foreign Chinese-backed company to be interfering and trying to use and exploit our Ethics Committee to try to spy on and try to cause sanctions or even fining or any other penalties, to be weighed in on a U.S. company that is actually exposing them in the media,” Tenney told NTD, The Epoch Times’ sister media outlet, during a Jan. 26 program.

Washington has blacklisted China’s Hikvision, a leading maker of video surveillance gear both at home and abroad, since 2019 under Trump-era orders because of cybersecurity and human rights concerns. The U.S. government stated that the company, with a market value of more than $70 billion, supports the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region of China.

The Pennsylvania-based video surveillance research firm IPVM detailed in a March 2021 report how Hikivision helped write surveillance standards dictating that data captured by facial recognition cameras across China should be segmented by dozens of characteristics—from eyebrow size to skin color and ethnicity.

The congresswoman said the state-controlled company had attempted to go after IPVM, which has published key investigations revealing the longstanding issues against the Chinese-based company. In 2021, Hikvision wrote to congressional ethics officials, asking them to investigate IPVM’s alleged illegal activities, Axios reported.

“It was attempted censorship, using our very own government against another [U.S.] company,” Tenney said during the interview.

“This company is very malicious and malevolent. Hikvision is actually a Chinese-backed state-run surveillance company that actually, sadly, is doing the type of surveillance and video surveillance to actually determine ethnicity. And it’s been used against the Chinese Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China to segregate them and to target them.”

In a joint letter with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent on Jan. 18 to congressional clerks, Tenney said Hikvision is “bullying” IPVM into silence for its unfavorable reporting.

The alleged influence attempt came after Hikvision resigned its membership in the Maryland-based trade organization Security Industry Association (SIA), citing IPVM’s participation as its reason. IPVM called the act an excuse in a statement, saying Hikvision was being investigated for violating the SIA ethics code and facing the risk of being expelled.

Tenney said many companies in the West hope in good faith that China opens up and minimizes human rights violations.

“But the opposite is true,” she said. “They’re really naturally and instinctively authoritarians, and they can be cruel and exacting.

“And they’ve used the United States. And some of these, I’ll say naive … U.S. partners, who have allowed this to continue to fester and grow. … They undermine freedom and they undermine human rights along the way.”

re-education camp in Xinjiang
The outer wall of what’s believed to be a re-education camp is equipped with several surveillance cameras in Xinjiang, China, on May 31, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

Hikvision and Dahua Technology, another of China’s largest artificial intelligence companies also blacklisted by Washington, control one-third of the global market share for video surveillance, according to a report by Deutsche Bank AG (pdf).

More than 300 different U.S. government organizations, including local governments and public schools, have purchased cameras and surveillance systems from the two companies since August 2019, government contract data show.

Hikvision didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.

Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on U.S. and China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
Steve Lance
Steve Lance is the host of Capitol Report, a political news show based in Washington aimed at providing a direct channel to the voices and people who shape policy in America. Capitol Report features all of the political news of the day with expert interviews and analysis.