Hikvision Did Not "Knowingly" Commit Human Rights Abuses, Despite Clear EvidenceBy Gurami Jamaspishvili and Charles Rollet, Published Jun 29, 2021, 10:18am EDT
A law firm hired by Hikvision concluded it did not "knowingly or intentionally" abuse human rights in Xinjiang. However, clear evidence shows that Hikvision knew as it directly built and operates five huge Xinjiang police projects.
Watch the video to learn more about Hikvision human rights abuses and the claim that they did not know or intend to do so:
Hikvision's excuse does not match reality, fitting into a larger pattern of misdirection and obfuscation.
Did Not "Knowingly Or Intentionally" Commit Abuses
In May 2019, Hikvision hired Pierre-Richard Prosper, a former US State Department Ambassador for War Crimes Issues, to investigate its Xinjiang human rights compliance, specifically five huge police video surveillance projects it had won worth ~$293 million. At the time, the US was considering human rights sanctions against Hikvision (which were issued five months later.)
Hikvision's 2020 ESG report, released this April, disclosed the results of Prosper's investigation:
the Arent Fox team concluded that "In the end, we do not find that Hikvision entered into the five projects in Xinjiang with the intent to knowingly engage in human rights abuses or find that Hikvision knowingly or intentionally committed human rights abuses itself or that it acted in willful disregard"
Arent Fox is the DC law and lobbying firm Prosper works for.
Report Not Public
Neither Arent Fox nor Hikvision has released the report publicly. We repeatedly reached out to both organizations requesting comments and for the report to be publicly released. Hikvision declined to comment while Arent Fox did not respond.
Effectively Admits Abuses
The carefully worded statement effectively admits human rights abuses did take place as it does not dispute or deny human rights abuses occurred just that, somehow, Hikvision "itself" did not "knowingly or intentionally" commit abuses.
Neither Hikvision nor Arent Fox has offered any public explanation of how this conclusion was reached or what evidence they have.
Evidence That Hikvision Did Know
However, Hikvision is well aware of what these police projects involved, since it was not simply Hikvision products being used. Rather, Hikvision was directly contracted to build and operate them for periods ranging from 11 to 21 years, per Hikvision's own financial disclosures:
Projects Included Mosque, Re-Education Camp Surveillance
The tender for Hikvision's "Security Protection And Prevention Control System" in Pishan County mandates cameras in mosques and a re-education camp (a 'Transformation Through Education Center') while stating Hikvision will build for 1 year and operate for 20:
Another project's tender (for Moyu County) mandates facial recognition cameras at the entrances of 967 mosques in just one county, noting the area is 97% Uyghur with a "strong religious atmosphere" requiring "prevention and control". The same tender includes six panoramic cameras for a re-education camp. A third Hikvision police project also mandates video surveillance for mosques.
Hikvision's ESG report ignored Hikvision's clear and direct participation in these projects, instead emphasizing end user compliance, saying it "advised end users to prudently consider reasonable necessity when using video surveillance products".
Norway Government Concludes Abuses "Ongoing"
Last year, the Norwegian government's Council on Ethics determined Hikvision's human rights abuses are "ongoing" because it is "committed to operating and maintaining" these five projects for years:
The Council on Ethics advises Norway's trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund. Based on this, it recommended divesting from Hikvision, which the fund said it had already done.
Other Abuses Beyond Police Projects
Beyond those five police projects, Hikvision touted a Uyghur-detecting AI camera and banned Uyghurs from applying to jobs at a Xinjiang paramilitary base. Hikvision's Xinjiang branch also put out a video of an employee boasting that human rights sanctions boosted orders. The BBC even filmed a Hikvision camera at yet another re-education camp:
Such excuses are commonplace for Hikvision.
When Hikvision was caught doing research with the PRC Army on improving the "lethality" of missiles using its video surveillance, Hikvision told the WSJ that this was done in the Hikvision employee's "personal capacity" - even though the study was published on Hikvision's own website and its author said he "represented Hikvision".
When Hikvision was caught marketing a Uyghur detecting camera', Hikvision told the BBC that the "details on its [own] website were incorrect" and had been "uploaded online without appropriate review". However, Hikvision previously admitted that it did conduct some form of minority recognition that it later canceled.
Likewise, Hikvision wants the public to believe that it simply did not know what was happening with its extensive direct installation and operation of these Xinjiang human rights abusing projects.
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