Research conducted by Free Tibet and Big Brother Watch has found that at least 18 of the 32 London borough councils are using CCTV cameras manufactured by Hikvision, a Chinese state-owned company which has been linked to human rights abuses against Tibetans and Uyghurs.
A series of Freedom of Information requests resulted in 19 boroughs admitting that they used Hikvision equipment, an increase on the 15 who made the admission in a similar study in 2020. There are actually seven authorities now admitting to using Hikvision who said in 2020 that they didn’t use Hikvision or didn’t give a clear answer. Two boroughs – Hounslow and Redbridge – that previously said they used Hikvision now say that they don’t and one – Havering – now gives an unclear answer.
Tower Hamlets, which is the Chinese government’s preferred location for its new British embassy, is the only borough to explicitly rule out using Hikvision on human rights grounds. The borough is also considering a plan to rename streets around the new embassy in honour of victims of Chinese government oppression.
Hikvision sales must be banned throughout the UK and its cameras removed from London as soon as possible.
John Jones, Free Tibet
Hikvision is one of several companies that have been implicated in supporting the creation of a surveillance state in Tibet, leading to the country being labelled the least free place in the world by Freedom House. In addition it is involved in what several countries now call a genocide of the Uyghur people in the area governed as Xinjiang. Hikvision has been revealed to have significant security flaws that could allow images recorded in Scotland being transmitted to China without consent and as a result they are banned from use by the US government and the UK’s Ministry of Defence advises other departments against using them.
John Jones, Campaigns, Policy and Research Manager for Free Tibet, said:
“Money spent by London borough councils on Hikvision cameras funds the oppression of Tibetan and Uyghur people by the Chinese government. By putting their citizens under the gaze of Hikvision cameras, these authorities are also putting people in London at risk of spying by the Chinese government.
“Hikvision sales must be banned throughout the UK and its cameras removed from London as soon as possible.”
Jake Hurfurt, Head of Research and Investigations at Big Brother Watch, said:
“It is alarming that Chinese state-owned companies, complicit in crimes against humanity, make up the backbone of Britain’s CCTV state.
“Hikvision and Dahua are a grave risk to everyone’s privacy and are normalising high-tech mass surveillance. There is no reason for a public body to have gender detecting cameras based on the same technology used to profile people by race in China.
“It’s time to throw rights-abusing technology in the bin. It’s time to ban Hikvision and Dahua now.”
Copies of all of the Freedom of Information responses received from government departments are available on request.
Media contact – Will Hoyles, [email protected], 07772512519
The full list of London boroughs admitting to using Hikvision is:
(new additions in bold):
City of Westminster
London Borough of Bexley
London Borough of Camden
London Borough of Croydon
London Borough of Enfield
London Borough of Greenwich
London Borough of Hackney
London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
London Borough of Harrow
London Borough of Hillingdon
London Borough of Islington
London Borough of Lewisham
London Borough of Merton
London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
London Borough of Southwark
London Borough of Sutton
London Borough of Wandsworth
Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea
Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames