Tech Company, Hikvision Has Been Accused of Selling Uyghur-Tracking Surveillance Cameras to the Chinese Government, the Company Claims That It Does Not Have Any Relation to the Ongoing Genocide
South and East Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The giant digital surveillance equipment maker has been found supplying those surveillance cameras, and face scanning technology to scan Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), with the aim to identify and track ethnic minorities, based on a July 2023 report (Ingram, 2023).
According to a copy of the contract obtained by the Internet Protocol Video Market (IPMV), a U.S. research firm dedicated to reviewing security and surveillance technology, in December 2022, Hangzhou-based company, Hikvision, sold $6 million in facial-recognition-technology equipment to the Chinese government. The 85-page contract showed that the government of Chengmai County on Hainan Island in southern China purchased a Hikvision product in which Uyghur detection was part of a “Standard Configuration,” according to a video surveillance specialist at IPVM headquarters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Ingram, 2023).
The Hikvision technology has been powered by hardware created by a US Nasdaq-listed, California-based company NVIDIA, which has been subject to US sanctions and banned from selling products to Hikvision since October 2019.
IPMV has stated though that Hikvision, despite the rebuttals, has kept selling surveillance products contributing to the repression of Uyghurs. They also stated that Hikvision products have been used in 12 Chinese provinces, outside the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), targeting Uyghur minorities.
The company claims to be independent from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, Chén Zngnián, the company's chairman, is both the director of the No. 52 Research Institute of the China Electronics Technology Group Corp (CETC), a state-owned technology conglomerate that owns a controlling stake in Hikvision and a member of China's parliament, the National People's Congress. The State Council's Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, which is overseen by the Politburo, the CCP's top decision-making body, controls CETC in turn. Hikvision owes the Chinese government $6 billion, which, according to the corporation, may "exert significant influence over our business and other matters of significance to us," according to the IPVM study.
Recent discoveries by IPVM support their May 2022 White Paper, "Hikvision, Xinjiang, Uyghurs & Human Rights Abuses," which revealed that, despite denials from the corporation, Hikvision cameras stood out as significant offenders in China's human rights abuses in the Uyghur region.
Tens of thousands of Hikvision cameras were planted throughout the whole Uyghur region during the mass arrests that started in 2016 under the leadership of the then-Xinjiang Party secretary Chén Quánguó, who had just put an end to instability in nearby Tibet. According to IPVM's research, the cameras were to blame for a number of human rights violations involving Uyghurs, including extensive surveillance of mosques and so-called reeducation camps.
Hikvision and the Xinjiang police agreed, according to IPVM's May 2022 report, to establish and run surveillance systems for reeducation centers in the three primarily Uyghur counties of southern Xinjiang: Pishan (also known as Guma in Uyghur), Moyu (also known as Karakax in Uyghur), and Yutian (also known as Keriya in Uyghur) (Ingram, 2023).
According to Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks (OHCHR, 1966), In reality, though, China signed the ICCPR in 1998 but has yet to ratify it even though they have kept promising this for years.
Ingram, R. (2023, August 22). Hikvision still sells Uyghur-tracking surveillance cameras, and they use NVIDIA chips. The China Project. Retrieved August 25, 2023, from https://thechinaproject.com/2023/08/17/hikvision-still-sells-uyghur-tracking-surveillance-cameras-and-they-use-nvidia-chips/
OHCHR. (1966, December 16). International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. https://www.ohchr.org/en/instruments-mechanisms/instruments/international-covenant-civil-and-political-rights