The Sunday Telegraph
Chinese-made CCTV equipment reviewed over security concerns
ENGLISH local authorities are set to review contracts for CCTV equipment from Chinese technology firm Hikvision amid security and human rights concerns, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of contracts are expected to undergo either a procurement review or security examination by the end of 2021.
It comes as pressure rises to dissociate with the company, which stands accused of helping to build the Chinese government’s surveillance state. The China Research Group of Conservative MPs has warned councils against “blindly buying from companies profiting from human rights abuses”.
Campaigners also fear “smart cities” technology, championed by Chinese firms and based on CCTV surveillance, could be vulnerable to foreign hacking.
In total, at least £1 million worth of Hikvision equipment was purchased by councils across England between 2019 and 2021. The vast majority of purchases were conducted through wholesale distributors, rather than Hikvision itself, making accountability more difficult.
Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council is among those set to consider alternative options at the end of the year with a full procurement review. The council currently has a contract worth about £450,000 for equipment supplied through a firm called DV Limited.
North Warwickshire Borough Council, which bought £240,000-worth of equipment through a contract with Synectics Security, has said that although allegations regarding Hikvision’s Chinese Communist Party links came to light after the contract was signed, it is considering taking specialist advice to ensure the tech presents no public risk.
Other councils have complained that Hikvision’s dominance in the CCTV market has made it difficult to divest as concerns over China have risen. A spokesman for Colchester Borough Council, which has purchased around £143,000 worth of equipment through a supplier, said: “Most computer, mobile phone and CCTV equipment is manufactured in China by corporations with close links to the Chinese government.”
The firm, blacklisted by the US in 2019, is still allowed to conduct business in Britain, with a base in Hayes.
Hikvision was approached for comment. It has previously said it is “committed to respecting all UK laws and guidelines”, adding: “As a manufacturer that does not sell directly to the end user, we do not oversee the operation of our products, but we do ensure our cameras are designed to protect public safety.”