Chinese CCTV camera firms engaging in human rights abuses to be given a ‘free pass’ to operate in the UK under controversial proposals
Chinese CCTV camera firms engaging in human rights abuses will be given a ‘free pass’ to operate in the UK under controversial Government proposals, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
The proposed new camera surveillance code has caused consternation with the Government’s own independent CCTV watchdog and MPs who have called for tougher regulations.
Professor Fraser Sampson, the Biometric and Surveillance Camera Commissioner, has been lobbying for the new code to include a legal obligation to effectively block authorities buying cameras from firms linked to human rights abuses.
He told the MoS the revised camera surveillance code, to be laid before parliament next month, could only be a ‘credible’ and ‘meaningful’ change if it included the human rights clause.
Chinese CCTV camera firm, Hikvision, which has been implicated in surveillance of the persecuted Muslim Uighur population will be given a ‘free pass’ to operate in UK (file image)
But on Friday Mr Sampson confirmed he understood the new Government proposals would not include the clause, providing an effective ‘free pass’ for firms involved in human rights abuses to sell their cameras to UK authorities.
It also raises the prospect of a row with MPs after a Foreign Affairs Committee report in July called for a ban on the use of China’s Hikvision cameras in the UK because of the firm’s links to human rights abuses.
State-owned Hikvision, the world’s largest provider of CCTV cameras, has been implicated in the surveillance of the persecuted Muslim Uighur population in China’s western Xinjiang province.
A contract for the firm’s cameras shows they are used in at least one Uighur ‘re-education camp’.
The company has been hit with a ban in the US but continues to provide cameras to police and authorities across the UK.
A contract for the firm’s cameras shows they are used in at least one Uighur ‘re-education camp’. Pictured: A facility believed to be a ‘re-education’ camp in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region
Mr Sampson said it ‘seems that my efforts to get even the broadest mention [of] ethical considerations around surveillance camera systems… have failed and the revised Code will not contain any reference to them’.
He also accused the Government of failing to even follow its own camera surveillance code, in contrast to private companies such as Marks & Spencer who have voluntarily adopted the principles.
He added: ‘There are organisations that are voluntarily adopting that code in any event, and are quite prepared to open their ethical books
‘Some public bodies, such as hospitals, and Marks & Spencer are the clearest example.
‘They have re-certified against the code of practice – they [Marks & Spencer] have more cameras than some English towns.
‘Yet at the same time the government doesn’t follow its own code, which is very difficult for me to explain when I’m encouraging compliance.’
The company has been hit with a ban in the US but continues to provide cameras to police and authorities across the UK. Pictured: Chinese policemen push Uighur women protesting in 2009
Tom Tugendhat, Foreign Affairs Committee chair, expressed concern at the proposals, saying: ‘Companies involved in state brutality should not be operating on our streets.
‘We need to think about those bidding for contracts and what they’re bringing with them.’
The revelations comes as the MoS can reveal Hikvision bosses have privately conceded one of their contracts allows for its cameras to be used in at least one re-education camp in China.
Chiefs are understood to have since blocked any similar contracts but are concerned revealing this would upset China’s Communist Party-controlled government.
There have also been concerns over the security of the cameras produced by an arm of the Chinese state.
Hikvision supplies CCTV cameras to British schools, police forces, government departments, local councils, hospitals, care homes and private companies.
The Home Office did not respond to a request for comment by time of publication.