Prof. Fraser Sampson, Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, welcomed the move. Speaking to Asian Lite he said that other government departments would review their existing systems and will consider the clauses suggested by him in procuring surveillance and security equipment … reports Anasudhin Azeez
The British government has replaced security equipment provided by Chinese-owned tech companies, including Hikvision and Dahua. Offices belonging to the Home Office, Department of Health & Social Care, Department of Work and Pensions, and Department of Justice are replacing the Chinese-made security equipment as MPs intensify their campaign against China over rights violations in Xinjiang province.
The British MPs alleged that the Chinese government is persecuting minorities and intruding on governmental departments and research centres worldwide. They also accused China of violating the territorial integrity of neighbouring countries.
Prof. Fraser Sampson, Commissioner for the Retention and Use of Biometric Material and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, welcomed the move. Speaking to Asian Lite he said that other government departments would review their existing systems and will consider the clauses suggested by him in procuring surveillance and security equipment.
Prof. Sampson, an expert in criminal justice and national chair of the Association of Police and Crime Chief Executives, said the market is flooded with privately owned and unregulated recording devices like dash cams, mobile phones, and video doorbells etc.
“We don’t need these many CCTV cameras in our public places. We simply need a system to compile the content and edit to make it useful for the security purpose,” he said.
In his 2021 report, Prof. Sampson urged the government to consider the supplier’s human rights records in the procurement process.
The government has included some of his suggestions in the current public procurement bill. Once it becomes law, it will make the surveillance equipment suppliers uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clauses.
“The British government is now aware of the issues of Chinese intrusion into our public places and government departments. This equipment will be misused for data harvesting. The presence of Chinese-owned surveillance systems at the Department of Defence and police forces will undermine national security. CCTV cameras are not just cameras but mini-computers which can be operated remotely to monitor and record data. I feel discomfort when I see Chinese-made Hikvision and Dahua cameras at our parliament, airports and important places. We are using public funds to deploy security cameras in public places, and we can’t partner with foreign-owned firms whose credentials are at stake over their association with authoritarian regimes,” said Prof. Sampson. “As the oldest democracy, we must show ethical leadership in procurement. We can’t subscribe to the service and equipment used by authoritarian regimes to persecute its citizens and abuse their rights in other parts of the world,” said Prof. Sampson.
He also urged the government to disassociate from firms that support authoritarian regimes and play a role in the rights violations like in Xinjiang province.
He welcomed the call for “an independent national review of the scale, capabilities, ethics and rights impact of modern CCTV in the UK,” by a group of British MPs.
A cross-party group of nearly 70 parliamentarians have called on the government to ban Hikvision and Dahua. The group includes former Conservative ministers David Davis MP, Lord Bethell, Steve Baker MP, and Damien Green MP; leading Labour human rights figures Baroness Chakrabarti and Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws; Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey; SNP Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Alyn Smith; Green MP Caroline Lucas, and crossbench peers.
The parliament last week shut down its TikTok account after MPs sanctioned by China raised concerns about data security. Parliamentary authorities confirmed they had deactivated the social media profile just six days after opening it, following an outcry by MPs worried about the relationship between TikTok and its Chinese owner ByteDance.
Senior Tory politicians, including Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith and Nus Ghani – all subject to sanctions by Beijing – had called for the account to be taken down in a letter to the speakers of the Commons and Lords. British MPs with TikTok accounts are now under pressure to leave the Chinese-owned popular social media platform.
In their letter aiming the TikTok account, the politicians had said they were “surprised and disappointed” with the decision to set it up. They pointed out that China’s National Intelligence law requires companies to yield data to government authorities upon request and expressed doubt over a TikTok executive’s reassurances to parliament in 2021 that its user data is not shared with ByteDance in China.
Partly Chinese state-owned CCTV manufacturers Hikvision and Dahua are now banned from trading in the US, owing to security concerns and evidence of so-called “re-education” camps in Xinjiang.
The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee called on the UK to follow suit with a ban on Chinese surveillance companies in November last year.
The MPs’ statement follows a six-month investigation involving thousands of Freedom of Information requests by Big Brother Watch, which found that the majority of public bodies use CCTV cameras made by Hikvision or Dahua, including 73% of councils across the UK, 57% of secondary schools in England, 6 out of 10 NHS Trusts, as well as UK universities and police forces.
Big Brother Watch and other rights groups are campaigning for Hikvision and Dahua to be banned in the UK due to the companies’ involvement in the Chinese state’s repression of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China. Hikvision and Dahua cameras are used in concentration camps throughout the Uyghur region. Both companies have contracts worth at least $1.2 billion for 11 separate, large-scale surveillance projects across the region.