Hikvision Exec Is PRC Ministry of Public Security (MPS) LeaderBy: John Honovich, Published on Apr 27, 2016
An NVIDIA presentation shows a Hikvision executive is simultaneously a leader within the PRC government's national security ministry.
This runs counter to Hikvision's assertions that state-owned enterprises simply own shares of Hikvision.
In this note, we examine the relationship and what this means for Hikvision and the global market.
Executive / Leader
A Hikvision EVP recently participated in a US company's technology (Nvidia) 2016 conference. Here is how Hikvision described their executive:
He holds 3 roles, in the 'privately' held Hikvision, in the government owned defense contractor CETC and the national government itself, the Ministry of Public Security.
Ministry of Public Security
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security is China's national police, who in addition to dealing with typical crimes (like thefts, assaults, murders, etc.), is in charge of suppressing 'crimes' against the Communist party.
The Ministry operates detention centers, as HRW explains:
"The Ministry of Public Security operates the detention centers, permitting police unlimited and unsupervised access to detainees. Lawyers are not allowed to be present during interrogations; and suspects have no right to remain silent, violating their right against self-incrimination. Procurators and judges rarely question or challenge police conduct, and internal oversight mechanisms remain weak."
Tortures and deaths in custody from the Ministry, though, are reported to be decreasing as noted in a UK government report:
The Ministry of Public Security, the agency in charge of the police, claims that the use of coerced confessions decreased 87 percent in 2012, that cell bosses who abuse fellow suspects are “things of the past,” and that deaths in custody reached a “historic low” in 2013.
Hikvision is understandably a major player in the Ministry's efforts since China's massive video surveillance systems provides a powerful means to monitor and suppress any opposition to the Party.
The other organization cited is CETC, the Chinese Electronic Technology Corporation, which is a division of the Chinese government serving a dual use civilian / military role in developing electronic systems, such as Hikvision.
Given this relationship, the fact that a Hikvision executive would simultaneously be a leader within this government organization is understandable.
Hikvision Chairman Also China Government Official
Pu is not the only Hikvision employee who is simultaneously a government official. Indeed, Hikvision's chairman is a Communist Party secretary as described in the Hikvision 2015 annual report (p. 62):
Chen currently serves as the head of 52nd Institute, the chairman and the Communist Party secretary of China Electronics Technology HIK Group Co., Ltd. (中电海康集团, CETHIK) and chairman of the Company [Hikvision]
Upsides for Hikvision
Though Hikvision downplays / obscures its direct connections with the Chinese government, having these are clearly a powerful revenue driver. The Chinese government is the largest buyer of video surveillance in the world and having your executive be a technology leader for the Chinese national police is quite an advantage for the billions spent over this decade.
Refusal to Address
Hikvision has made it clear that they will not (or can not) address their much deeper government connection. This arose most prominently in their promotion within the China Communist Party.
Risks for the World
Just like the Chinese government would want to know and would be concerned about the security implications of buying surveillance technology from a US company whose executives are part of the US government, so too would many international buyers.
Given the Chinese government ownership of Hikvision, given Hikvision's pledge to comply with the Communist Party, given their executive who is simultaneously a government leader, that is a fair amount of risk for those deploying security systems in countries with security concerns about China.
And with Hikvision's leadership within the Ministry of Public Security, given the Ministry's track record of torture and human rights abuses, raises concerns about whether one wants to support such activities.
It is one thing to simply be a company operating in a country, and unfair to blame them for their government's actions. It is entirely different when a company is part of that government. Hikvision / China.