Norway Council of Ethics Finds Hikvision Human Rights Abuses "Ongoing"

By Charles Rollet, Published Sep 23, 2020, 09:57am EDT

Hikvision's involvement in "serious human rights abuse" in Xinjiang is "ongoing", according to the Ethics Council of Norway's trillion-dollar oil fund, contradicting Hikvision's claim that it "respects" UN human rights principles.

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In a damning report, the council recommended the fund divest from Hikvision and criticized Hikvision for not providing "any information about what it is doing to avoid contributing to or to remedy such human rights abuses". It has been 17 months since Hikvision announced an internal human rights investigation.

In this note, we examine the Ethics Council's conclusion and what it shows about Hikvision's claimed human rights commitment.

Oil Fund/Ethics Council Background

Norway is a major oil producer and for years has saved and invested oil profits in a central fund which is now the world's largest with a market value of over $1 trillion. IPVM Image

The fund excludes some companies over ethics concerns, such as tobacco firms and those involved in certain kinds of weapons manufacturing (Hanwha and Honeywell, for example, are excluded because of this). The fund's Council on Ethics has the power to recommend exclusion but these recommendations are not mandatory.

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Ethics Council Says Human Rights Abuses "Ongoing"

In January 2020, in a report only made public last week, the Ethics Council recommended Hikvision's exclusion over its involvement in 5 huge government surveillance projects in Xinjiang. The report's authors noted the abuses are "ongoing" because Hikvision has committed to building, operating, and maintaining the projects for many years:

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For example, in Hikvision's most recent H1 2020 financial report, Hikvision lists ongoing projects in Xinjiang with loans of $100+ million lasting to 2028 or longer:

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As IPVM has covered, these projects include advanced cameras for Xinjiang's notorious 're-education camps' and facial recognition cameras for almost 1,000 mosques. The Ethics Council concluded that "through its participation in these projects" Hikvision "facilitates serious human rights abuse."

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Hikvision Quiet for 17 Months on Human Rights Measures

In April 2019, Hikvision announced it had "commissioned an internal review" of its Xinjiang activities.

However, the Council of Ethics called out Hikvision for not doing anything beyond that to "avoid contributing to or to remedy" human rights abuses:

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The Ethics Council report was written in January 2020 and Hikvision has still not announced any human rights measures. In summer 2020, Hikvision said "the Company has recently received a draft version of Arent Fox’s final report and is reviewing it." However, Hikvision has released no findings from the report.

Hikvision Claim To Respect UN Human Rights Contradicted

Hikvision claimed in its 2018 ESG report that "Hikvision respects the human rights" principles set forth in various (non-binding) United Nations documents:

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However, the Ethics Council's report directly contradicts this, as it bases its assessment on two of the exact same documents (the ICPR and the Guiding Principles):

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Status of Norway Hikvision And Dahua Investments

The Fund rejected the Ethics Council's recommendation "because the company is no longer in the Fund’s portfolio." IPVM asked the Fund whether its decision to divest from Hikvision was influenced in any way by the recommendation, but the Fund declined to comment, saying we "do not comment on single investments".

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Also, 2019 data shows the Fund is also invested in Dahua, with about $30m worth of stock. Dahua won almost $1 billion in huge Chinese government surveillance projects in Xinjiang. However, it is unclear if the Fund has divested from Dahua as well since. IPVM asked but the Fund declined to comment although noted that at the end of this year, the Fund's report will reveal all its latest investments.

Hikvision No Comment

IPVM reached out to Hikvision for comment on this story, asking specifically whether there was any update on its internal investigation/human rights measures it is taking. Hikvision did not respond, if they do we will update.

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