Hikvision and the China Communist PartyBy: John Honovich, Published on Jan 12, 2016
Just days after getting $3 billion financing from the Chinese government, Hikvision celebrated opening their own Communist Party company committee. While undoubtedly a great honor and powerful move inside of China, the impact of this to the rest of the world is much more concerning.
In yet another English language exclusive, IPVM examines what Hikvision is doing and the risks this presents for the global video surveillance industry.
Opens Communist Committee
On December 9, 2015, Hikvision held the inaugural meeting of their Communist party committee, led by Hikvision's Chairman / Communist Party Secretary as well as attended by Hikvision's President and various Hikvision senior managers.
In fairness to Hikvision, Hikvision is not new to the Communist party. As the release confirms, this move is a promotion, previously Hikvision had been lower down in the Communist Party, as a branch.
Also, this release (from their parent government division), notes that Hikvision is a state owned enterprise, i.e., government run as well, something that Hikvision generally attempts to downplay / deny.
Hikvision Pledges to Comply and Strengthen The Communist Party
Hikvision's Chairman of the Board and Communist party secretary declared their allegiance:
"Every party member must consciously accept the [Communist] party's leadership, effectively strengthening the party's leadership, strengthen the Party's vitality, comply with party discipline.... All Party members united as one, as "personal dream", "Hikvision Dream", "China Dream" and efforts!" [emphasis added]
And in August 2016, Hikvision's Chairman declared:
First, we must stand on the national strategic level, we must first create a "state-owned enterprises through management innovation, institutional innovation, technological innovation, and maintain good control, influence, dynamic and competitive "model, will become the direct control of the Party Central Committee
China Communist Party = China Government
The China Communist party is the Chinese government, as China is a one party state. Given that Hikvision is a government owned company in a country ruled by the Communist party, the relationship is understandable. Hikvision's promotion, along with the $3 billion, shows Hikvision's importance to the party and the government.
Concerns With the China Communist Party
From massive corruption to brutal repression of those who criticize them, the Chinese Communist Party is an authoritarian regime.
Most directly impactful for video surveillance users is cyber spying and privacy rights concerns.
China runs an advanced cyber spying program against the United States and other Western countries. Having millions of Hikvision cameras inside foreign networks is very valuable for Chinese government spying. Hikvision already has the worst track record in video surveillance for cyber security breaches. We suspect that Hikvision's errors are primarily due to incompetence but given their government ownership and the importance of cyber spying to the Chinese Communist party, this is a serious risk and a tempting target.
Privacy, even of its own citizens, is a far secondary concern to monitoring and stopping those who would criticize or oppose them. If the Party believes that spying of anyone is for the good of the Party / China, there is no law or internal check that will prevent them from doing it. This is of particular concern given Hikvision's growth in cloud services / Ezviz. What will Hikvision do to ensure that the Party does not get access to cameras inside American and other countries' homes?
Hikvision Refuses Comment
Unfortunately, despite IPVM providing 9 days advance notice of this article, Hikvision refused any comment.
Hikvision could help itself greatly if they could somehow explain away this relationship. On the other hand, Chinese citizens who publicly criticize the Party, do so at their own risk of jail or death, so even if they commented, they would have to be careful not to offend or undermine the Party.
From Hikvision's internal perspective, being promoted to a Communist Party Committee surely is a great honor and will help them secure even more lucrative projects inside of China. But the rest of the world seriously needs to consider the risks of having a Chinese Communist Party controlled organization being their video surveillance provider.