This week the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation released an explosive new trove of documents detailing more of the Chinese government’s horrific abuses of Uyghur Muslims inside Xinjiang. The Commerce Department wisely added Hikvision, the Chinese surveillance technology giant, to the Entity List in 2019 for complicity in the Xinjiang nightmare – some of the worst crimes against humanity of the 21st century.
In April, IPVM published a video entitled “Hikvision Cameras in My Concentration Camp Cell.” In it, a former concentration camp prisoner named Ovalbek Turdakun described how a Hikvision camera watched over him and 22 other prisoners held in a cramped cell, with devices even positioned over the toilet. When IPVM showed him the Hikvision logo, he instantly said “it is the same logo [of the cameras] which is in the cell.”
Even after his release, Ovalbek’s Hikvision-fueled nightmare wasn’t over. “The cameras would see me and send off alarms,” as he described the ubiquitous cameras in his neighborhood. “The cameras are about [6 feet] in height — also Hikvision — and they’re on every sidewalk,” he said. “There are so many of them, they don’t need to change the directions of the cameras. It doesn’t matter how long the road is, even the shortest road will have cameras. The whole entire city has cameras watching.”
The atrocities in Western China conducted with the aid of Hikvision products aren’t the only reason the company remains dangerous. Last year, IPVM documented Hikvision’s “top supplier status” for the Chinese military and role in “collaborating on PLA (People’s Liberation Army) research.” The Wall Street Journal picked up on the IPVM report, writing:
“According to public documents and online materials found by IPVM, Hikvision sold drones and other accessory equipment to the Chinese air force in 2019 and was considered a top-tier supplier to the nation’s military in 2014…Hikvision’s website also carried a report on how the company’s technology could improve the performance of Chinese missile, tank and other weapons systems, citing a study done jointly with commanders and weapons experts from the People’s Liberation Army. The study proposed the use of Hikvision cameras to record drills and improve weapons accuracy.”
From complicity in human rights abuses, to building up the Chinese military, to using chips from China’s national champion, YMTC, Hikvision is a cog in a Chinese government machine devoted to crushing American national security and human rights. In 2021, China Tech Threat supported the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to add Hikvision to its Covered List – essentially, a list of companies whose products cannot obtain authorizations for use on the radio spectrum.
Now the U.S. government seems poised to take further action against Hikvision in the form of unprecedented new sanctions, if reports are true. These much-deserved new penalties would be a welcome step.