Congressman Visits Hikvision USA, Admits Unaware of "Company's Background" Before BacktrackingBy: Charles Rollet, Published on May 31, 2019
A newly-elected US congressman visited Hikvision USA's office in April, posing for a photo with Hikvision's staff:
A sitting US congress member's visit to Hikvision is notable given:
- Hikvision's parent company is the PRC government,
- the US government has banned Hikvision equipment from federal purchases or funding in August 2018
- the US government first considered sanctioning the company for profiting from human rights abuses in China in September 2018
However, when we contacted Rep Cisneros' office for comment, they responded by accidentally sending us an internal reply about how to handle the situation. Then, after sending an official response which admitted that they had not checked the company's background, the office backtracked and sent a new statement omitting the admission.
Gil Cisneros Background
Cisneros, a Democrat, began his term in Congress in January 2019 representing California's 39th district, the L.A. area where Hikvision USA is based. A Navy veteran, Cisneros entered politics after years as a philanthropist, having won a $266 million lottery jackpot in 2010.
Beyond the office tour and employee sit-down, no other details about the visit were publicly available. Rep. Cisneros' office did not publicly advertise this visit.
Cisneros Initial Response - Accidental Email
IPVM emailed our request for comment to Cisneros' spokesman Michael Quibuyen and copied Nic Jordan, Cisneros' Chief of Staff.
While we did not receive a response from Quibuyen, we did receive the following email from Jordan, in an email slip-up:
The reply is clearly directed at Cisneros' staff, not IPVM, who Jordan notes "I have never heard of". "TPs" is a reference to "talking points", i.e. a quick response explaining the Hikvision USA visit. "District stats" seems to be a reference to how many employees worked at the office.
Official Statements Differ
IPVM did not receive an official response from Cisneros' office for about 10 days, so we followed up when it was widely-reported that Hikvision was once again being considered for human rights sanctions by the US government over its Xinjiang operations.
This finally elicited a response, with spokesman Michael Quibuyen sending an official statement:
“Congressman Cisneros makes every effort to tour businesses in his district when asked by constituents. As the Representative for California’s 39th Congressional District, the Congressman is committed to acknowledging and visiting companies that contribute to our local economy, especially ones that provide jobs for our constituents. This visit was scheduled and executed prior to the reveal of the recent evidence of the company’s background. His dedication to constituent requests is only matched by the seriousness with which he takes his oversight responsibilities to preserve and protect America’s national security interests.” [emphasis added]
The statement was noteworthy for admitting that the Hikvision USA visit took place without much due diligence, even though "evidence of the company's background" was already public before the latest sanctions considerations. (Cisneros became a Congressman in January of this year, while Congress' NDAA ban was passed last August.)
Also worth noting in the statement is the mention that Cisneros tours businesses when "asked by constituents", implying that Cisneros did not come up with the idea to visit Hikvision but was responding to the company's request.
New Statement Omissions
However, a day later, the spokesman sent a new statement, which omitted the bolded sentences above about the Hikvision USA visit:
Congressman Cisneros is committed to acknowledging and visiting local businesses that employ constituents and contribute to the 39th District's economy. His commitment to serving his constituents and the community is only matched by the seriousness with which he takes his oversight responsibilities to preserve and protect America’s national security interests.
No Response Since
IPVM followed up by asking why this new statement was so different. We have not received a response but will update if we do.
Hikvision has been a relatively unknown company outside of the video surveillance industry, however, that is changing due to its Xinjiang projects and wider US-China tensions. Some politicians still have some catching up to do.