A Chinese CCTV firm angrily denied being complicit in repressing Uyghur Muslims after MPs pushed for it to be banned in the UK
- The UK
Foreign Affairs Committeecalled for a ban on Hikvision's products being used in the UK.
- In a letter recently made public, the company accused the committee of a "knee-jerk reaction."
- The independent CCTV watchdog was passed the private letter and has published it.
Hikvision, a Chinese camera manufacturer implicated in human-rights abuses against the Uyghur minority in China, has said a British Parliamentary committee's call for a UK ban on the company is a "knee-jerk reaction".
The Foreign Affairs Committee published a report on July 8 calling on the UK government to ban Hikvision equipment from the UK.
It further asked the government to prohibit UK firms from conducting business with Hikvision and "any companies known to be associated with the Xinjiang atrocities through the sanctions regime".
Xinjiang, a westerly region of China, is the home of the mostly-Muslim Uyghur people.
Human-rights groups and governments have accused authorities there of waging a repressive campaign of imprisonment and re-education, said to involve the imprisonment of more than a million people.
The US government describes the situation there as a genocide, and parliaments in the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands have said the same. Western governments have been moving to punish companies deemed to be helping China.
Hikvision's cameras are used by councils across London and the UK, Reuters reported. The CCTV camera that caught former UK health secretary Matt Hancock having an affair in his office was manufactured by Hikvision, the UK's i newspaper reported.
In June, the Biden administration banned US investment in the firm. This followed an August 2020 ban on the US government buying goods or services from companies that use products from Hikvision.
Following the committee's report, Hikvision wrote to unidentified "valued partners". In their letter, seen by Insider, the company says the committee's report "states cameras made by the Chinese firm Hikvision have been deployed throughout Xinjiang and provide the primary camera technology used in the internment camps."
"This is unsubstantiated and not underpinned by evidence," Hikvision says.
Hikvision have won Chinese government tenders to establish facial recognition cameras at the entrances of mosques and install surveillance systems in re-education camps, according to the outlet IPVM, which covers the video-surveillance industry.
Hikvision also said the committee's recommendation of a ban is a "knee-jerk reaction." It said it was "entirely disproportionate, ill-measured, and reinforces the notion that this is motivated by political influences". This, the company says, is a "staggering leap for the Committee to make, and is not based on any concrete evidence".
Hikvision cited a report by US law firm Arent Fox - paid for by the company - which appeared to acknowledge that Hikvision is working in Xinjiang, but with motives it characterized as pure.
It concluded that Hikvision did not "[enter] into the five projects in Xinjiang with the intent to knowingly engage in human rights abuses or find that Hikvision knowingly or intentionally committed human rights abuses itself or that it acted in wilful disregard."
The UK government is due to respond to the committee's report by September 8.
Hikvision say before then it will "work with the Government to provide a well-rounded perspective to policy making and moving away from personal agendas".
Hikvision's letter was published by the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, an independent watchdog linked to the Home Office, after one of Hikvision's "valued partners" passed the letter to the commissioner, Professor Fraser Sampson.
Sampson has written to Hikvision about the letter. He asks the firm if they "accept that basic premise, namely that crimes are being committed against the Uyghurs and other ethnic groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region".
Tom Tugendhat MP, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told Insider: "I'm pleased to see the Surveillance Camera Commissioner stand by the committee's recommendations.
"Those who helped to build the security state in Xinjiang are complicit in terrible human rights abuses.
"The UK should not be importing technology built on repression."
A spokesperson for the Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner told Insider the commissioner had not yet received a formal response to his letter.
The spokesperson said: "He's had contact from Hikvision suggesting a meeting. That will be set up after a substantive response to the letter."
Insider contacted Hikvision for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
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