Tesco to Phase Out Chinese Surveillance Cameras Over Security, Human Rights Concerns

By Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
Alexander Zhang
March 19, 2023Updated: March 20, 2023

Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket, plans to ditch Chinese-made surveillance cameras from its stores, heeding warnings from human rights groups that they pose serious security and ethical risks.

Tesco revealed the decision in response to an appeal from campaign groups Big Brother Watch, Hong Kong Watch, Stop Uyghur Genocide, and Free Tibet urging the retail chain to remove CCTV cameras made by Chinese firms Hikvision and Dahua from its stores.

In a letter dated Feb. 22, the groups said these Chinese firms are “involved in serious human rights abuses and associated with significant security issues.”

“These companies provide technology that facilitates the persecution and oppression of ethnic and religious groups in the Uyghur region (“Xinjiang”), Tibet, and Hong Kong and have no place in the UK,” they said.

“These cameras also give rise to serious security concerns, given their links to the Chinese state and their history of security flaws,” the letter states. “It is vital that UK companies do not invest in insecure, unethical, and rights-abusive technology.”

Tesco logo
A picture shows signage on a branch of a Tesco in London on Jan. 27, 2017. (Daniel Leal-Olivas /AFP via Getty Images)

In a letter dated March 16, Tesco CEO Jason Tarry replied, “We have a strong commitment to ethical sourcing and human rights, and we do not tolerate any forms of human rights abuse in our supply chain. When we became aware of the allegations linked to Hikvision and Dahua, we immediately took action to identify alternative suppliers.

“While we recognise the severity of these allegations, due to the size and complexity of our business and our responsibility to maintain safety and security in our stores, it will take some time until all the equipment can be swapped out. We can confirm that we are now in the process of transitioning to new suppliers.

“Having robust security systems in place, in particular body cameras, is essential for keeping our customers safe but is also key to our programme to reduce abuse and assault of Tesco colleagues in stores. Ensuring the safety of our colleagues and customers is our first responsibility as an employer and one we take very seriously and we are mindful of this as we transition to alternative security equipment in our stores.”

Epoch Times Photo
Hikvision cameras in an electronic mall in Beijing on May 24, 2019. (Fred Dufour/AFP via Getty Images)


Hikvision and Dahua, both ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), were blacklisted in 2019 by the U.S. Commerce Department for being implicated in enabling human rights violations and abuses against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in China’s Xinjiang region through the use of high-technology surveillance.

The UK’s surveillance watchdog, Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson, has repeatedly voiced concerns over the use in the UK of Hikvision and Dahua, including security risks and human rights implications.

The UK government last year told its departments to stop installing new Chinese surveillance cameras at sensitive sites—citing security considerations—and advised them to consider replacing existing ones before the maintenance schedule and do the same with non-sensitive sites.

Manufacturers are subject to China’s National Intelligence Law, a law that requires all organisations and citizens to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts,” Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden noted.

‘Always Follow the Party’

Hikvision’s controlling shareholder is China Electronics Technology HIK Group, a subsidiary of state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corp. (CETC), one of China’s “big 10” state-owned military industrial groups.

The company was founded under the auspices of CETC’s 52nd Research Institute to make a profit after “the 9/11 terrorist attack made a splash in the global security and surveillance market,” according to a Sina Finance feature on Hikvision.

Fu Lihua, Dahua’s founder and biggest shareholder, is also the CCP secretary for the company.

According to feature reports on Fu, before founding Dahua, he was assigned after college to work at Tongda electronic equipment—a military-owned factory.

In a speech at a CCP event in 2018, Fu said the company was armed with CCP leader Xi Jinping’s “new socialism with Chinese characteristics” and vowed to “always follow the party” and contribute to the China dream with Dahua.

Conor Healy, director of government research at the security and surveillance industry research group IPVM, previously told The Epoch Times that there are “quite significant” security risks in using Hikvision and Dahua equipment.

He also argued that the companies, which provide custom-designed surveillance systems to Chinese authorities, are “directly responsible” for the scale of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Recent research by IPVM found that Hikvision has activated alarms to aid the Chinese regime in tracking protesters and adherents of Falun Gong—a spiritual practice based on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance that is severely persecuted by the Chinese regime.

Dahua surveillance cameras can identify Uyghurs from within a crowd, and issue “Uyghur warnings” to the CCP police, a separate IPVM study said.

Officials at Hikvision and Dahua didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.

Lily Zhou contributed to this report.