- February 11, 2023
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HikVision and Dahua are the most popular security camera providers in the world. Both of these Chinese companies have been supplying surveillance equipment to the USA, the UK, and several other countries for years.
But, in 2022, the UK passed laws restricting the use of HikVision and Dahua cameras in governmental buildings. The sudden ban has raised many questions and concerns among people.
So, without further ado, let’s explore why did UK ban Chinese security cameras from HikVision & Dahua. Read more!
How Did It All Start?
The UK government imposing a ban on companies is no small thing.
It takes a long time to investigate the matter, review everything, and then come to a conclusion. And since imposing a ban on international companies can cause political drifts, the government is even more careful and calculated in its decision.
So, when Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden declared the ban on HikVision & Dahua, many people were alerted. What caused the government to take a sudden decision?
Well, the judgment wasn’t immediate at all. The case was opened in the summer of 2022 when 67 politicians gathered to protest against the use of HikVision and Dahua security cameras in the UK.
The cross-party group included Sir Ed Davey (Lid Dem leader), Green MP Caroline Lucas, four former Conservative ministers, and Labour human rights figures.
In a statement, they demanded the ban on the sale and operation of Hikvision & Dahua surveillance equipment in the UK. They also asked the UK government to condemn their involvement in technology-enabled human rights abuses in China.
Following this protest, the UK government investigated the allegations, and then Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden declared the ban on all future installations of HikVision & Dahua security cameras. He also stated that in light of the threat to the UK and the increasing capability and connectivity of these systems, additional controls are required.
Why did UK Ban Chinese Security Cameras?
The US and European parliaments have already banned the use of Chinese security cameras because of repression and mass arbitrary detention. The reasons behind the UK ban are no different. HikVision & Dahua cameras are banned due to:
Oppression of Ughyur Muslims
Big Brother Watch is a non-profit and non-party organization that works to protect everyone from unfair privacy intrusion in the UK. When the initial protests against HikVision and Dahua were held, Big Brother Watch created a report on the matter.
According to it, both companies have a role in the oppression of the Muslim Uyghur community. The Muslim Uyghurs are one of the many ethnic communities that reside in the Xinjiang region of China. Since 2014, the Uyghurs have been placed in internment camps by the Chinese government.
Another Daily Mail report confirms that HikVision and Dahua have faced accusations for supplying surveillance cameras that were used in monitoring the citizens of Xinjiang as well as the people kept in concentration camps.
Big Brother Watch stated that mass surveillance is an unjustified encroachment on an individual’s privacy and freedom. It doesn’t matter what the situation is – this governmental act is not reasonable.
They further said that it is even more concerning when the technology behind Big Brother is actively implicated in the brutal persecution of ethnic minorities – a crime against humanity.
Big Brother Watch’s report disclosed another important reason for the ban. Both HikVision and Dahua have close ties with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The party has significant shareholdings in the companies.
This is a real threat to the UK government because Chinese political organizations can control the companies and access the data. According to Mareike Ohlberg of Stockholm China Forum, if the [Chinese government] wants data or information, these companies will have no choice but to cooperate.
So, China can request the video footage captured by the HikVision and Dahua security cameras. The companies would have to abide by this as there is no legal way to deny the data access request.
Couple this with the fact that HikVision and Dahua cameras are commonly used in the UK. 73% of them are used by local authorities, 63% by schools, and 35% by police forces. Dahua cameras were also found in use at the Home Office Marsham Street and were immediately removed by authorities.
All this puts the security of the UK government and citizens at great risk. The Chinese government can survey the buildings and track specific individuals with the cooperation of CCTV companies.
Mareike Ohlberg further added to her statement: Please note that there is no concrete evidence that this is currently happening in the UK, but tracking individuals is a fairly standard capability for PRC authorities within China.
Considering these risks, UK departments are removing HikVision and Dahua cameras from major computer networks and sensitive governmental areas. The Department of Health and Social Care has canceled its contract with HikVision, and the Department for Work and Pensions has removed all HikVision products from its building.
HikVision & Dahua’s Standpoint
HikVision has refused all the allegations imposed by the protestors and the UK government. As per its spokesperson, 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 spokesperson also implied that there are several fringe groups in the UK who want the role of CCTV cameras to be reduced and will throw any allegations about them. They will lie to ‘demonize HikVision’.
HikVision also provided a statement to CNN. It said that HikVision being represented as a threat to national security is false. It has always worked with the UK government to fulfill security requirements.
The company claims that it has no access to the video data of the users. Also, it cannot transfer this data from the customers to third parties because it does not manage the end-user databases. It does not have cloud storage in the UK either.
HikVision hopes to meet with the UK officials and understand their decision, though it has previously spoken with the government to clear misconceptions. As for Dahua, it hasn’t responded to requests for comments.