Hikvision: Chinese surveillance tech giant denies leaked Pentagon spy claim

Chinese company Hikvision, which is the world’s largest surveillance camera maker and has close links to the Chinese state, has denied allegations that it is illegally disguising its products sold to the US government to enable Chinese espionage.

The company did not respond to questions about whether it partners with Chinese intelligence agencies. Hikvision supplies its products to resellers who then supply governments and companies, often with the resellers’ branding.

This is known as “white labelling” and is a common business model. However, Hikvision has been under scrutiny for its ties to the Chinese state and the use of its products in monitoring Uyghurs.

In November, the US implemented a nationwide ban on Hikvision products, citing concerns over national security.

According to a leaked US government document that the BBC has viewed, Hikvision is accused of “partnering with Chinese intelligence entities” and “using relationships with resellers to disguise its products for sale to government suppliers.”

It claims this was “creating vectors for Beijing to compromise DoD [Department of Defense] networks”, and that the presence of Hikvision products would probably persist in US government supply chains “because of the company’s efforts to mask its exports to retain access to US and allies’ markets”.

The document also claims that as of January, white-labelled Hikvision products were still available to customers in the US government.

In response to BBC queries about the allegations, a Hikvision spokesperson said “it has not, does not and will not violate the law in order to conduct its business”, and that it has “very clear and longstanding policies in place to prevent the improper labelling of its products by anyone for any reason”.

The Chinese surveillance technology firm, Hikvision, has stated that it has been cooperating with the US government to ensure that its products are not sold improperly to government agencies.

However, the company did not address questions about its alleged links with Chinese intelligence agencies or whether it provides client information to them.

The firm has previously denied posing any national security threat and claimed that it cannot access users’ data, and therefore cannot pass it to third parties.

Hikvision is closely associated with the Chinese state and is the largest maker of surveillance cameras globally. Its largest shareholder is China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, a state-owned company.

The firm has won multi-million dollar contracts to build a surveillance network in China, including in the Xinjiang region where the Chinese government has been accused of genocide against the Uyghur Muslims. Critics have accused Hikvision of aiding Chinese oppression against the minority community.

Western countries have expressed concern over Hikvision’s presence, and in November 2021, UK officials were instructed to stop installing Chinese-made surveillance cameras on sensitive sites due to security concerns.

Additionally, the Australian government has announced plans to remove Chinese-made surveillance cameras from defence sites.