China Subverting US Efforts to Promote Secure Equipment

Surveillance technology trade publication IPVM is attracting new attention for its work to expose how video surveillance companies Hikvision and Dahua, which are deliberately sowing confusion in the marketplace and flouting our national security laws. They do this by making false claims to the FCC about their Entity List status and marketing those claims as fact in business and promotional materials with the support of their US distributor. 

IPVM has a record of published investigations on how Hikivision and Dahua technology is being used to support the surveillance and internment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, thus deeming them a national security risk by the FCC and subject to the revocation of FCC equipment authorizations.

In a new letter to the FCC, IPVM detailed how Hikvision and Dahua claimed in comments to the FCC that the Commission has no authority to ban the company’s products. The comments were then widely promoted as fact in promotional and marketing materials by their US distributor ADI, a multi-billion dollar company based in New York. The letter states:

“Hikvision and Dahua have recently argued that they do not belong on the FCC’s covered list. Shortly after filing, both companies leveraged these arguments in widely- distributed marketing materials to encourage US companies to continue to buy and sell their products. This raises questions about whether the companies are engaging with the Commission in good faith.”

The work by IPVM underscores the loopholes in our national security rules that risky firms continue to flout, which are only exacerbated by the support they get from American business allies. The letter covers how ADI Global, America’s largest surveillance distributor which aggressively promotes Hikvision and Dahua throughout the US, holds enormous influence over which products go on to secure US facilities, homes and businesses 

The fact that the multi-billion ADI is based in New York State injects another layer of national security exposure. China Tech Threat has been aggressively calling out New York’s state’s lax practices relating to IT cybersecurity and espionage protections and purchases of restricted information technology equipment. Its action is the result of an analysis of state procurement records that revealed the Empire State, which is home to the world’s financial markets, has spent more than $28 million on restricted Chinese technology.  In December, members of the state’ congressional delegation issued a letter to Governor Hochul specifically calling on her to address the state’s weak cyber protections. 

“Recently, it has come to light that New York State has spent tens of millions of dollars on technology products from Chinese state-owned and directed companies. Several of these companies are prohibited from use and procurement by federal agencies due to the security risks they pose. In addition, State and local government agencies are reported to have purchased and currently use surveillance equipment from sanctioned Chinese technology firms. Failing to comply with, or even consider, restrictions set by the federal government,” the letter states. 

The IPVM letter does recommend a path forward that allows authorizations to be revoked in a way that minimizes impact on US buyers and sellers. Specifically, the letter suggests revoking authorizations granted after March 12, 2021 when the FCC first publicly identified the Covered Entities as posing a threat to national security.

The ongoing work by IPVM has subject it to attacks and retaliatory investigations. Axios recently reported that Hikvision has asked congressional ethics officials to investigate potential lobbying disclosure violations by IPVM. Following that request, New York Representative Claudia Tenney and Senator Marco Rubio this week sent a letter to Cheryl Johnson, Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Sonceria Ann Berry, Secretary of the U.S. Senate warning that Hikvision is exploiting congressional processes to silence IPVM. In the letter they warned: “Congressional ethics must always be maintained to the highest standards. However, we urge you to not allow our transparent and open system to be cynically exploited by firms like Hikvision, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for its implication “in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the XUAR.”