Government departments must stop installing surveillance cameras made by Chinese companies in “sensitive” sites, it was announced today.
Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden told MPs that a review by the Government Security Group found “additional controls are required” due to “the threat to the UK and the increasing capability and connectivity” of surveillance systems.
The new restriction applies to all companies that are subject to China’s national security law, which forces firms to co-operate with Beijing’s security networks.
Many government buildings use surveillance equipment by Hikvision or Dahua, which are both owned by the Chinese state.
Dowden said government departments should now consider whether they should immediately uninstall Chinese surveillance equipment from sensitive areas, instead of waiting for the scheduled upgrades.
“Departments have therefore been instructed to cease deployment of such equipment on to sensitive sites, where it is produced by companies subject to the national intelligence law of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
“Since security considerations are always paramount around these sites, we are taking action now to prevent any security risks materialising.”
Alicia Kearns, Tory MP and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said the government should go further and ban Chinese-made surveillance equipment from all central and local government buildings.
“Public bodies and local authorities should not be procuring from surveillance companies, such as Hikvision, that have consistently failed to come clean over their complicity in [Chinese Communist Party]-orchestrated human rights abuses against the Uighur people and other minorities in Xinjiang,” Kearns said.
“Any ban should also be backed up by a new national procurement framework that provides alternatives to Chinese state-backed tech that could be compelled to transfer vast amounts of UK citizen data into the hands of the CCP.”
Today’s decision comes after the UK government decided in 2020 to ban Chinese telecoms firm Huawei from helping build the UK’s 5G network due to security fears.
It was claimed at the time that Beijing could use Huawei’s equipment to conduct surveillance in the UK – a claim denied by Huawei and the Chinese government.
A Hikvision spokesperson said: “It is categorically false to represent Hikvision as a threat to national security.
“No respected technical institution or assessment has come to this conclusion. Hikvision cannot transmit data from end-users to third parties, we do not manage end-user databases, nor do we sell cloud storage in the UK.”