MPs Call for Wider Ban of Chinese CCTV Cameras

The government has been urged to expand its ban of new Chinese surveillance equipment, which currently applies only to ’sensitive' government sites.
MPs Call for Wider Ban of Chinese CCTV Cameras
People visit a Hikvision booth at the security exhibition in Shanghai, China, on May 24, 2019. (Aly Song/Reuters)
Lily Zhou

MPs have called for a wider ban of Chinese CCTV cameras after a minister clarified that local governments can still use them.

The government has banned the installation of surveillance equipment from Chinese makers on “sensitive” government sites since November 2022 over risks to national security, but other sites do not have to follow the ban.

In a written answer published on Tuesday, government minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe, whose roles include supporting the deputy prime minister on cyber security, told Lord Alton of Liverpool, “While local authorities may choose to follow the lead of central government in removing surveillance equipment they are under no obligation to do so.”

The minister added that the government encourages all organisations to follow the National Cyber Security Centre’s supply chain security guidance when selecting a technology supplier.

The government defines “sensitive sites” as “any building or complex that routinely holds secret material or above; any location that hosts a significant proportion of officials holding developed vetting clearance; any location which is routinely used by ministers; and any government location covered under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.”

Baroness Neville-Rolfe also confirmed that a timeline for the removal of Chinese surveillance equipment, which the government promised last year to publish, is due to be released by April 26.

It comes after The Times of London reported earlier this month that almost 6,000 cameras made by companies with links to Beijing were being used in at least 20 council areas in Scotland.

Speaking to Politico, Conservative MP Neil O’Brien pointed to the United States’ import and sales ban on Chinese telecoms and video surveillance equipment, including CCTV brands Hikvision and Dahua, and said, “Given multiple instances of spying by the Chinese regime in Parliament itself, we should be less naive.”

The MP’s remarks came after the government sanctioned two Chinese hackers and one entity over an attack of the Electoral Commission’s system and an online “reconnaissance” campaign targeting email accounts of MPs and peers.

Mr. O'Brien said there’s “no meaningful distinction” between Hikvision and the Chinese regime.

Alicia Kearns, chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, told the outlet, “If we are serious about building up our resilience to hostile states, we need to see policies implemented across society, not just in Whitehall.”

The UK government banned Chinese surveillance equipment because Beijing’s National Intelligence Law requires all organisations and citizens to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.”

Security experts have warned that this means any company in China can be coerced to hand data they hold over to the communist regime, and these data can be fed into artificial intelligence algorithms to help form useful intelligence.

Hikvision and Dahua are both known to supply surveillance equipment that has been used to target Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in China’s Xinjiang region, and the companies were blacklisted by the Trump administration in 2019 over their alleged roles in human rights violations.

The companies previously denied being complicit in human rights abuses in Xinjiang, but Conor Healy, director of government research at security and surveillance industry research group IPVM, previously told The Epoch Times that while other suppliers may be able to argue they don’t know how their products are being used, it’s “not at all an exaggeration to say that Hikvision and Dahua are themselves directly responsible for the extraordinary scale of what has happened in Xinjiang.”

He described how “custom-built sophisticated Hikvision technology” has been used in a concentration camp, adding, “The idea that Hikvision has no idea how these products are being used [is] utterly absurd.”

In December 2022, IPVM also published a report alleging Hikvision had activated alarms targeting protesters and adherents of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice based around the values of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the Cabinet Office for comment.

Hikvision and Dahua didn’t immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comments.

In a statement to Politico, Justin Hollis, public affairs director at Hikvision, said the company will “continue to actively engage with the UK government and the Labour Party” to “clarify misunderstandings about the company and address their concerns.”

“This is a critical part of our mission to keep the UK safe,” he added.

Lily Zhou is an Irish-based reporter covering UK news for The Epoch Times.