Chinese Blacklisted Surveillance Equipment Companies Secure Regional U.S. Governments As Customers

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More than 300 different U.S. government organizations, including cities, counties and other local governments, as well as public school districts, have purchased cameras and surveillance systems from two blacklisted Chinese tech companies since August 2019, according to government contract data.

The two companies are Hikvision and Dahua The technology and their recent commercial agreements with U.S. local governments have been reviewed by IPVM, a Pennsylvania-based video surveillance research company, based on government contracts obtained through GovSpend, a Florida-based technology company. May 24, IPVM published its findings in partnership with TechCrunch.

Purchasing equipment and services from Hikvision and Dahua is an issue due to cybersecurity and human rights concerns associated with the two tech companies. In fact, federal agencies are prohibited from purchasing from both companies due to the significant national security risks described in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2019. The ban came into effect in August 2019.

A Uyghur woman (center) walks through the entrance to a bazaar in Hotan, China’s Xinjiang region, May 31, 2019 (Greg Baker / AFP via Getty Images)

Hikvision and Dahua were also part of a group of China-based companies added to the US Department of Commerce. blacklist in October 2019 for their role in supporting human rights violations by the Communist Party of China in the far west region of Xinjiang. US companies are required to apply for a special government license before they can do business with blacklisted companies.

The Chinese regime’s crackdown on ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang – subjecting them to abuses that include torture, sterilization, political indoctrination and forced labor – has been denounced as “genocide” by Canada, the Netherlands, the UK, and United States.

Most recently in March, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated Hikvision and Dahua as companies posing a threat to the national security of the United States. Three other Chinese companies that received the same designation were Huawei, ZTE and Hytera Communications.

Despite the NDAA ban and federal warnings, Hikvision and Dahua continued to enter the US market nationally and locally. Regional governments are just prohibited to use federal funds to buy two companies.

One of the biggest spenders, according to IPVM, was the Baldwin County School District in Alabama, which spent more than $ 1 million to buy 144 Hikvision thermal cameras from a local supplier in July 2020. These cameras were to be installed in 48 local schools to screen for fever.

In August of last year, public schools in Fayette County, Georgia paid $ 494,000 for 70 thermal imaging cameras. The following month, the school district confirmed to IPVM that all cameras purchased were operational in all of its schools.

TechCrunch reported that Kern County in California was the only municipality to respond to the media’s question about Hikvision and its alleged links to human rights abuses. Ryan Alsop, administrative director for Kern County, told TechCrunch that he was “not at all familiar with the issues you are referring to in relation to Hikvision.”

According to IPVM, Kern County spent more than $ 15,400 in June 2020 on surveillance dome cameras and related equipment for its probation service offices.

Modesto City Schools, a public school district in California, spent $ 256,500 on eight Dahua cameras and equipment in October 2020, according to IPVM. In addition, the city government of Modesto spent an undisclosed amount to equip 55 buses with thermal scanners from Hikvision.

The town of Modesto initially used federal funds to make its Hikvision purchase, unaware that this violated NDAA prohibitions, according to IPVM. The city later told IPVM that it “had transferred the spending to another source of funding.”

Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told TechCrunch that Chinese companies are never “truly independent” from the CCP, in response to the IPVM findings.

“So when these American entities buy this equipment, they should know that not only are they supporting companies facilitating repression in China, but that the data collected through this surveillance equipment can be shared with the Chinese Communist Party,” Warner said. .

“Americans should also be concerned about how the CCP works to collect data on American citizens through a variety of tactics. We need to educate Americans, including local government entities, about the risks of purchasing this type of equipment and its moral and security implications.

Frank Croc

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Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. It covers current events in China and Taiwan. He holds a master’s degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.


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