By Catarina Demony and Pedro Nunes
January 19, 2023
A surveillance camera is seen pointed to the exterior of the Chinese embassy in Lisbon, Portugal, December 21, 2022. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
LISBON, Jan 19 (Reuters) - Surveillance cameras installed at the Chinese Embassy in Portugal's capital Lisbon were removed or repositioned on Thursday after concerns of a "blatant violation of privacy" were raised by residents.
Three large 360-degrees surveillance cameras were installed around the consular section two months ago, a resident who wished to remain anonymous told Reuters in December, saying they were concerned they might be able to film apartments buildings and public roads.
Five other residents Reuters spoke to this month also said they were concerned the cameras might be able to film apartment buildings.
Portugal's foreign ministry said on Wednesday it had asked relevant authorities to evaluate whether the surveillance cameras complied with the rules. Portuguese law states surveillance cameras cannot point at properties or public roads and must "only capture what is strictly necessary to cover accesses to the property".
Portugal's National Data Protection Commission (CNPD) said on Dec. 27 it would reach out to the embassy to clarify the situation.
On Thursday, shortly after Reuters reported the complaints, one camera was removed and the other two were no longer facing outside of the embassy.
It was not immediately clear whether the move was linked to the complaints or any intervention by Portuguese authorities.
The embassy did not reply to requests for comment. The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The CNPD did not immediately reply to a request for comment after the cameras were removed or repositioned.
Before the change, the cameras had been installed on metal poles, extended over the embassy walls. The resident who Reuters spoke to in December, who lives across the road from the embassy's consular section, described the situation as a "blatant violation of privacy".
China has one of the world's most sophisticated surveillance systems, and some Chinese embassies have faced criticism for enforcing excessive monitoring and protective measures abroad.
The cameras' brand used at the consular premises was Hikvision, a partly state-owned Chinese firm.
The British government told its departments in November to stop installing Hikvision or other Chinese-linked surveillance cameras at sensitive buildings, citing security risks.
"The installation of surveillance cameras obeys legally established rules, which any entity must, naturally, scrupulously comply with," the Portuguese foreign ministry said.
Reporting by Catarina Demony and Pedro Nunes; Additional reporting by Patricia Rua; Editing by Aislinn Laing, Alexandra Hudson