China’s Hikvision embroiled in fresh row with UK watchdog CCTV Business

British watchdog CCTV has escalated a row with Hikvision, the Chinese state-backed camera maker, pulling out of the annual industry conference in protest at its sponsorship of the event.

Fraser Sampson, the biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner, declined to speak at next month’s CCTV User Group Vision conference after taking money from Hikvision.

The company has been accused of helping Beijing spy on China’s Uighur minority.

More than 1.3 million Hikvision cameras are installed across Britain, from NHS hospitals to schools and municipal CCTV.

The company has been blacklisted by the US government, which said it was involved in the repression and surveillance of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province and was controlled by the Chinese military.

Mr Sampson said Hikvision had repeatedly refused to answer questions about whether its cameras were deployed in Chinese internment camps and whether it accepted crimes being committed against Uyghurs in the region.

He said he planned to use his speech next month to highlight concerns about Hikvision to the rest of the industry.

In a letter to Justin Hollis, Hikvision’s UK and Ireland marketing director, Mr Sampson said the company had shared an “inconclusive match” and that “given the level of public attention sparked by the treatment of Uyghurs and the inextricable contribution made by surveillance technology, I think this will generate a lot of interest at the conference”.

Mr Hollis responded by asking that the sensitive details of their meeting be kept out of the public domain so that they are not seen by “anti-Hikvision and anti-China platforms”.

Mr Sampson said he pulled out of the conference after the CCTV User Group refused to suspend Hikvision and refund his membership fees.

“I said it was a bad way to do business and I would not attend,” he said, adding that there were “serious ethical and human rights issues rights in the purchase of equipment from companies accused of genocide and human rights violations”. .

Hikvision, which is 42% state-owned, said it took all concerns seriously.

Mr Sampson said he could instead update UK CCTV guidelines to require shoppers to take greater account of human rights concerns.

The CCTV User Group said it offered to suspend Hikvision from the conference if Mr Sampson and the company could not resolve their differences, but the commissioner opted out.

“We share the concern of the Commissioner and many others about China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. However, in the absence of guidance from the UK Government, we do not believe the role of the CCTV User Group either to act as a regulator or to sanction a company,” he said.

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This notice was published: 2022-03-21 09:00:00

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