Britain’s biggest supermarket Tesco has said it will ditch Chinese-made surveillance cameras from its stores, heeding warnings from human rights groups that they pose serious security and ethical risks.
Tesco revealed the decision in response to an appeal from campaign groups Big Brother Watch, Hong Kong Watch, Stop Uyghur Genocide, and Free Tibet urging the supermarket chain to remove from its stores CCTV cameras made by Chinese firms Hikvision and Dahua.
In a letter dated Feb. 22, the groups said these Chinese firms are “involved in serious human rights abuses and associated with significant security issues.”
“These companies provide technology that facilitates the persecution and oppression of ethnic and religious groups in the Uyghur region (“Xinjiang”), Tibet, and Hong Kong and have no place in the UK,” they said.
“These cameras also give rise to serious security concerns, given their links to the Chinese state and their history of security flaws,” the letter said, adding: “It is vital that UK companies do not invest in insecure, unethical, and rights-abusive technology.”
Jason Tarry, Tesco’s chief executive, replied in a letter dated March 16: “We have a strong commitment to ethical sourcing and human rights, and we do not tolerate any forms of human rights abuse in our supply chain. When we became aware of the allegations linked to Hikvision and Dahua, we immediately took action to identify alternative suppliers.
“While we recognise the severity of these allegations, due to the size and complexity of our business and our responsibility to maintain safety and security in our stores, it will take some time until all the equipment can be swapped out. We can confirm that we are now in the process of transitioning to new suppliers.
“Having robust security systems in place, in particular body cameras, is essential for keeping our customers safe but is also key to our programme to reduce abuse and assault of Tesco colleagues in stores. Ensuring the safety of our colleagues and customers is our first responsibility as an employer and one we take very seriously and we are mindful of this as we transition to alternative security equipment in our stores.”
Hikvision and Dahua, both ultimately controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), were blacklisted in 2019 by the U.S. Commerce Department for being implicated in enabling human rights violations and abuses against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in China’s Xinjiang region through the use of high-technology surveillance.
The UK’s surveillance watchdog, Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner Fraser Sampson, has repeatedly voiced concerns over the use of Hikvision and Dahua in the UK, including security risks and human rights implications.
The UK government last year told its departments to stop installing new Chinese surveillance cameras in sensitive sites—citing security considerations—and advised them to consider replacing the existing ones before the maintenance schedule and do the same with non-sensitive sites.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden noted that the manufacturers are subject to China’s National Intelligence Law, a law that requires all organisations and citizens to “support, assist, and cooperate with national intelligence efforts.”
‘Always Follow the Party’
Hikvision’s controlling shareholder is the China Electronics Technology HIK Group, a subsidiary of state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corp. (CETC), one of China’s “big 10” state-owned military industrial groups.
The company was founded under the auspices of CETC’s 52nd Research Institute to make a profit after “the 9/11 terrorist attack made a splash in the global security and surveillance market,” according to a Sina Finance feature on Hikvision.
Fu Lihua, Dahua’s founder and biggest shareholder, also is the CCP secretary of the company.
According to feature reports on Fu, before founding Dahua, he was assigned after college to work at Tongda electronic equipment—a military-owned factory.
In a speech at a CCP event in 2018, Fu said the company was armed with CCP leader Xi Jinping’s “new socialism with Chinese characteristics” and vowed to “always follow the party” and contribute to the China dream with Dahua.
Conor Healy, director of government research at the security and surveillance industry research group IPVM, previously told The Epoch Times that there are “quite significant” security risks in using Hikvision and Dahua equipment. He also argued that the companies, which provide custom-designed surveillance systems to Chinese authorities, are “directly responsible” for the scale of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
Recent research by IPVM found that Hikvision has activated alarms to aid the Chinese regime in tracking protesters and adherents of Falun Gong—a spiritual practice based on the tenets of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance that is severely persecuted by the Chinese regime.
Dahua surveillance cameras can identify Uyghurs from within a crowd, and issue “Uyghur warnings” to the CCP police, a separate IPVM study said.
The Epoch Times has contacted Hikvision and Dahua for comments.
Lily Zhou contributed to this report.