How Hikvision supports oppression
Hikvision is the largest manufacturer of video surveillance equipment1 in the world, with a UK turnover of nearly £30m a year2, and it is controlled by the Chinese state3.
In recent years, the Chinese government has taken advantage of the expertise Hikvision’s success around the world gives it, to support the creation of a massive surveillance state. Tibet is now the least free country in the world and several countries, including the USA4, have said that the persecution of the Uyghur people in occupied East Turkestan is a genocide.
In July 2021, UK Members of Parliament on the influential Foreign Affairs Select Committee said that Hikvision cameras are “deployed throughout Xinjiang [the name the Chinese government gives East Turkestan], and provide the primary camera technology used in the internment camps”5. Hikvision was also found to have developed technology that could distinguish between Han Chinese and Uyghur people6.
Hikvision proudly advertises its role in providing surveillance7 on the controversial Qinghai-Tibet Railway and there is strong evidence8 that Hikvision supplied the equipment that allowed the creation of Chen Quanguo’s surveillance state in Tibet, which resulted in a police station every 500m in Lhasa.
There have been concerns about the potential for unauthorised remote access to Hikvision cameras since at least 20149, with regular stories about new vulnerabilities emerging. Most recently, in September 2021, a massive security flaw10 was found allowing easy remote access to many models of Hikvision cameras.
Earlier in 2021, Italian state TV launched an investigation after Hikvision cameras were found to be communicating with unknown servers in China11.
In response to these concerns the US Federal Communications Commission has considered banning Hikvision equipment from the US entirely12, and in the UK MPs have pushed back against the installation of Hikvision equipment in the buildings that house their offices13.
Hikvision in the UK
Hikvision cameras can be found all over the UK and several reports have found them in local council buildings14. Free Tibet’s recent research has found that at least three government departments - the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Ministry of Justice - currently make use of Hikvision equipment despite advice from the Ministry of Defence not to do so. This includes cameras at more than 50 Jobcentre Plus locations across the country.
In their July 2021 report15, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said that “Equipment manufactured by companies such as Hikvision and Dahua [another Chinese state-owned tech company] should not be permitted to operate within the UK. We recommend that the Government prohibits organisations and individuals in the UK from doing business with any companies known to be associated with the Xinjiang atrocities through the sanctions regime.”
In August 2021, the UK Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner told Hikvision that it was not being clear enough about the level of the company’s involvement with human rights atrocities in Xinjiang16.
Free Tibet is calling on the Foreign Secretary to follow the Select Committee recommendations and ban Hikvision from the UK. You can help stop UK taxpayers’ money from paying for genocide by signing our petition.