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Hikvision: Kent councils to replace CCTV cameras made by Chinese firm

By Alex Bish & Bob Dale

BBC News

February 21, 2023

Several councils in Kent say they will gradually replace CCTV cameras provided by Hikvision

Some of Kent's councils have said they will stop using CCTV cameras made by a company which has links to the Chinese government.

Hikvision has faced accusations linking its technology to the oppression of Uyghurs in China.

One Kent councillor has called for the existing cameras to be removed.

The company says it is "committed to upholding the highest standards and respect for human rights", and that it poses no threat to national security.

In July 2021 the Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Select Committee said "equipment manufactured by companies such as Hikvision should not be permitted to operate within the UK", after MPs concluded its cameras were being used in Uyghur internment camps in Xinjiang.

Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells councils, where Hikvision cameras are only used in council buildings, all said they will replace them with equipment from different providers when they need upgrading.

Medway and Gravesham councils said they were waiting for clarification from the government and the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner before making a decision.

Dover council said while it does use Hikvision cameras, its contract is not with the company itself.

Dartford Borough Council has yet to comment.

China has been accused of possible genocide against the Uyghurs, a claim it denies

Matt Boughton, the leader of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, said: "The fear is biometric data is going to be fed back to the Chinese Communist Party via Hikvision's cameras. Chinese companies are legally required to cooperate with state agencies should they be requested."

George Pender, a Conservative Sevenoaks District councillor, says he wants more drastic action.

"We're not going to put any more [cameras] in, but I would like us to go one step further, which would essentially mean removing them from the entirety of Sevenoaks District Council's systems," he said.

Many public bodies in Wales recently took a similar decision.

A spokesman for Hikvision said: "Technical analysis of Hikvision products have never indicated they are a threat to the national security interests of United Kingdom. It is regrettable that some individuals have been willing to politicise a critical element of the country's security architecture, thus reducing public trust in the vital work that our products support.

"Hikvision does not store end users' video data, does not offer cloud storage in the UK and therefore cannot transmit data from end users to third parties. Hikvision cameras are compliant with the applicable UK laws and regulations and are subject to strict security requirements.

"Hikvision takes all reports regarding human rights very seriously and recognizes our responsibility for protecting people. As a market leader, Hikvision is committed to upholding the highest standards and respect for human rights."

A government spokesman said: "The government announced last year that departments should stop using visual surveillance systems produced by companies subject to China's National Intelligence Law on certain government sites."


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