UK Camera Commissioner: Buying Dahua and Hikvision Puts 'Money Over Values'

Published Mar 14, 2022 14:12 PM
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The UK government's top surveillance official is warning authorities about buying from Hikvision and others profiting from Xinjiang, declaring "be careful whose corporate company you keep" and calling out those who exchange "values for money".

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At a speech last week Fraser Sampson, Biometrics And Surveillance Camera Commissioner, criticized spending "tax revenue" on firms "controlled by the same State" that the Uyghur Tribunal found "directly responsible for genocide".

Sampson confirmed to IPVM he is referring to Hikvision and Dahua, among others. Hikvision has won contracts to design, build, and operate huge Xinjiang police projects while its cameras have been sighted multiple times in the camps, something Sampson has been pushing for Hikvision to publicly explain (without success.)

Now, Sampson is directly urging UK authorities to avoid companies like Hikvision and Dahua, telling IPVM "we ought to be demanding net zero human rights abuse targets". While there is currently no UK human rights ban on the companies, various local authorities are starting to institute their own bans, and this could spur more into action.

Speech Background

On March 8, Commissioner Sampson spoke at the National CCTV Conference in Bristol, a conference organized by the CCTV Working Group of the National Police Chiefs Council (similar to IACP in the US).

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The Commissioner is a UK government position intended to encourage compliance with the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, a set of 2013 guidelines for UK police and town councils. The position is the UK's highest in terms of surveillance camera compliance but carries no direct enforcement or disciplinary powers.

Xinjiang Surveillance "Raises Ethical Questions"

In the speech, Sampson said that "ethics is at the centre" of UK police decision-making, "including presumably procurement", noting that Xinjiang's camps "rely heavily on surveillance" sold by "state-run surveillance companies", raising "some ethical questions":

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As IPVM has exposed, Hikvision is controlled by the PRC government.

'How Much UK Tax Revenue For Genocide'

Sampson then critically raised questions about spending UK tax money on companies involved in Xinjiang, e.g. "How much tax revenue should we hand" to companies "controlled by the same State which the Tribunal found to have been directly responsible for genocide", and "would you employ a company that designed, built and operated" camps:

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Both Hikvision and Dahua have "designed, built and operated" Xinjiang police surveillance. Sampson is well-aware of this, asking Hikvision in August 2021 to explain what is "very clearly a joint enterprise arrangement" with Xinjiang police after Hikvision falsely claimed "we do not oversee and control our devices".

'Exchange Of Values For Money'

Noting that many UK authorities buy surveillance from Xinjiang-related manufacturers, Sampson said this wasn't "value for money" but an "exchange of values for money":

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'Be Careful Whose Company You Keep'

Finally, Sampson urged authorities to "be careful whose corporate company we keep" although noting "this isn't about product boycotting":

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Sampson's comments on boycotts are in line with his previous statement to IPVM that "I don't think the answer lies in producing" a US-style blacklist but rather putting suppliers through a thorough "vetting process".

No Restrictions, Usage Common

UK authorities currently have no restrictions on buying Hikvision and Dahua equipment for human rights reasons. (The UK military has quietly issued national security guidance against Hikvision.) Last month, privacy rights group Big Brother Watch estimated that ~60% of all UK authorities "may use Hikvision and Dahua".

Sampson's Xinjiang Efforts

Sampson, however, has attempted to spark change on this issue by directly questioning Hikvision about its Xinjiang operations and including human rights guidance in the Surveillance Camera Code. So far these attempts have not met success, with Hikvision refusing to meet Sampson unless in private, and the Human Rights Clause being rejected by the current UK government.

Impact Examined

Sampson calling out local authorities who buy Hikvision/Dahua/etc gear could spur more councils and police to ban purchases of their gear. Such bans have already happened in Tower Hamlets, a Muslim-majority part of London:

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The small city of Tunbridge Wells also banned Hikvision and Dahua, calling them "politically sensitive".

"We Ought To Demand Net Zero Human Rights Abuse"

Sampson told IPVM he believes "strong human rights guidance is essential" and called for a similar approach to climate change, i.e. targeting "net zero human rights abuse":

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I think strong human rights guidance is essential, along with an expectation that companies will be transparent about their own activities and values and that they will engage meaningfully in addressing questions from the public. We expect companies to set 'net zero' carbon emission targets and we ought to be demanding net zero human rights abuse targets. [emphasis added]

National-level human rights guidance may be included in the UK's upcoming Public Procurement Bill, which Sampson said he was "awaiting further information from the government" on.

Hikvision And Dahua

Both companies have long denied these charges with Hikvision hiring a US law firm who found they did not knowingly commit human rights abuses, despite clear evidence they did. And Dahua denies, as well, even though Dahua were caught with their own extensive documentation offering "Uyghur warnings".

Comments (2)
Undisclosed Distributor #1
Mar 14, 2022

"The so-called final ruling by such a machine churning out lies is nothing but a political farce staged by a handful of contemptible individuals."

Surveillance Camera Statistics: Which City has the Most CCTV Cameras?

John Honovich
Mar 14, 2022

Screencap from your link:

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I am not sure your point but I guarantee those statistics are wildly wrong and far too low for everywhere.

For example, later on in that same post, it claims:

Estimates vary on the number of CCTV cameras in China, but IHS Markit’s latest report suggests that 54 percent of the world’s 770 million surveillance cameras are situated in China, meaning there are approximately 415.8 million located in the country.

IHS, now Omdia say over a billion cameras total, either way, if you accept that there are at least 400 million surveillance cameras in China (as is said above), that means there are 285 cameras per 1,000 people in China (math: 400 million cameras / 1.4 billion people in China X 1,000 people).

The city with the most cameras in China (claimed Taiyuan above with 117 per 1,000 people) has fewer surveillance cameras per thousand people than the country as a whole (i.e., 285 cameras per 1,000 people)? This is logically impossible.

You are free to make the point you want, I am mainly pointing out serious flaws in counting cameras in physical locations (it's hard to do as there is no easy way to determine how many cameras are deployed in NYC or Shanghai, or London, etc.).