67 UK Parliamentarians Call For Total Hikvision & Dahua Ban

Published Jul 04, 2022 13:35 PM
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67 UK Parliament members across party lines have called for a "ban on the sale and operation" of Hikvision and Dahua equipment over human rights and national security concerns.

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This is the strongest move against Hikvision and Dahua UK yet and places unprecedented pressure on the UK government, which has so far declined to impose any national-level restrictions.

Hikvision did not respond to IPVM's comment request but blamed the statement on "fringe groups" out to "lie and demonize" (without evidence.)

"We Call For A Ban"

The statement calls for Hikvision and Dahua gear to be banned from "sale and operation" while also for the UK to formally "condemn" the firms' involvement in "technology-enabled human rights abuses in China":

We call for a ban on the sale and operation of Hikvision and Dahua surveillance equipment in the UK and condemn their involvement in technology-enabled human rights abuses in China. We call on the Government to commission an independent national review of the scale, capabilities, ethics and rights impact of modern CCTV in the UK. [emphasis added]

In total, the statement was signed by 67 MPs and House of Lords members across all the major parties. The House of Commons has 650 MPs and the House of Lords has 767 members.

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National Security, Human Rights Mentioned

Conservatives MP David Davis called to "ban invasive and oppressive technology from these firms" as they may "pose a threat to national security" due to being "state-owned":

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This technology comes equipped with advance surveillance capabilities such as facial recognition, person tracking and gender identification. These pose a significant threat to civil liberties in our country. But in addition to the privacy concerns, these companies, Hikvision and Dahua, are Chinese state-owned companies, raising urgent questions over whether they also pose a threat to national security. The US has already blacklisted the companies. We need to be in step with our international partners, and should also look to ban invasive and oppressive technology from these firms. [emphasis added]

(Hikvision is created and controlled by the PRC government; Dahua is private, but ~10% state-owned with its founder and CEO pledging to "always follow the Party".)

Meanwhile, Labour MP Shami Chakrabarti said UK taxpayers "should not be paying for human rights abusing Chinese tech":

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UK taxpayers should not be paying for human rights abusing Chinese tech, let alone doing so on such an extraordinary scale. We mustn't support abuses over there or replicate a China-style surveillance state over here. We need an urgent and fully independent review of surveillance in modern Britain. [emphasis added]

While the list includes MPs from all major parties, no sitting minister-level MP from the governing party joined, indicating continued reluctance from the current UK government, which declined a previous ban proposal back in November 2021.

Hikvision: "Fringe Groups" Out To "Lie And Demonize"

In comments to the BBC, Hikvision blamed the ban proposal on "fringe groups" who would "lie to demonize Hikvision" in a bid to reduce CCTV in the UK:

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CCTV has always played a critical role in the UK in the fight against crime and terrorism. Hikvision is proud of the role we play in that. The UK also has fringe groups who would like to see a massive reduction of CCTV in the UK who are willing to throw allegations around about CCTV, and who would lie to demonise Hikvision. Hikvision has always worked with government bodies to provide solutions to the UK's CCTV requirements [emphasis added]

Along with the MPs, the statement was signed by five human rights/privacy organizations: Big Brother Watch, Stop Uyghur Genocide, Free Tibet, Hong Kong Watch, and Rene Cassin. In response, Free Tibet told IPVM that its views "are not fringe", calling out Hikvision for refusing to answer the Camera Commissioner's Xinjiang questions and "throwing around insults" instead of "engaging with criticism":

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Hikvision have been asked repeatedly by Fraser Sampson to answer basic questions about security concerns and their links to genocide and have refused to answer. If they think anything we've ever said about them is incorrect we'd be delighted to meet with them to discuss it. Rather than responding to our evidence Hikvision have instead had us escorted away from their offices, avoided events they knew we'd attend and blocked us on social media. Our views are not fringe but are backed by dozens of parliamentarians of all parties and instead of engaging with criticism Hikvision are throwing around insults. [emphasis added]

IPVM asked Hikvision which specific "fringe groups" and "lies" it is referring to, but Hikvision did not respond to our request for comment. Dahua also did not respond (yet). If they do, we will update. UPDATE 7/5: Dahua responded to the letter, telling IPVM it is "not controlled by any government" and has "a commitment to never develop solutions to identify a single ethnic, racial or national group":

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Dahua Technology fully supports a fair and transparent review of the role that video surveillance plays in the safety and security of the UK and its population. However, we do not believe the call for Dahua ban in UK is justified. For the past 6 years, we have been dedicated to serving customers in this important market in full compliance with all applicable laws and rules. We believe that the UK Parliament will judge us on this substantive basis.

As we have repeated many times in response to similarly misleading media reports, we are a private-sector business, traded on the public markets that adheres to standards for ethical practices in our industry. We are not controlled by any government. Our company has not been involved directly or indirectly in promoting human rights violations in any country in which we operate. This includes a commitment to never develop solutions to identify a single ethnic, racial or national group.

In the meantime, we respectfully ask UK Parliament and our customers to recognize that our product and technology pose no threat to national security. While conducting our business operations being compliant with all applicable laws and rules, Dahua maintains extremely high cybersecurity standards by developing and rigorously applying industry best practices related to data protection in all of our solutions and products. We make every effort to ensure the highest levels of cybersecurity credentials and training for installers and system integrators to offer secured service in the market.

We look forward to engaging further with the relevant governing bodies to ensure continued safety, security and the highest quality of services to the UK.

Dahua's response omits some major information. While Dahua is indeed private, it is also ~10% state-owned and its founder/CEO is Dahua's Party Secretary and pledged to "always follow the Party". Meanwhile, the PRC's national intelligence law mandates all PRC entities, including Dahua "shall support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence".

Dahua's claim to "never develop solutions to identify a single ethnic, racial or national group" is directly contradicted by Dahua's own product support guides which mention "Uyghur warnings" for PRC police dozens of times:

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Dahua's guides also target "Uyghurs with hidden terrorist inclinations":

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And Dahua's SDK included code for Uyghur warnings as well:

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IPVM covered this previously in our post Dahua Responds, Caught Lying.

Ban Chances Increased But Remains Unclear

This represents the largest group of UK politicians to ever call for such a ban, which was first proposed by the UK Foreign Affairs Committee in March 2021 only to be rejected six months later. However, this time, the proposal carries more political weight as it includes 67 Parliamentarians while the Foreign Affairs Committee is composed of only 11.

Still, it remains unclear whether the sitting Conservatives-led government will follow through with a ban; it has only commented vaguely on the matter, telling the BBC that "we take the security of our citizens, systems, and establishments very seriously and have a range of measures in place to scrutinise the integrity of our arrangements."

Practical Problems for Dahua and Hikvision In UK Rise

While the likelihood of a ban is unclear, this is causing practical problems for Dahua and Hikvision selling in the UK. The UK has historically been one of their most successful overseas markets with wide usage across the country. However, increasing awareness and protests against the companies are reducing this, especially in enterprise and government projects, though the company's strength remains, at least for now, at the low end of the market.

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