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Report: Chinese company attacks US researchers for exposing its role in spying, human rights abuses

Two fixed-view security cameras (Adrian Pingstone/WikiCommons)
January 04, 2022

In a scrambled effort to prevent the U.S. from banning its products, a Chinese surveillance company is lashing out at the American company that exposed its involvement in mass surveillance of minorities in China.

According to a letter sent last year and obtained by Axios this week, China’s surveillance giant Hikvision requested that congressional ethics officials investigate Pennsylvania-based company IPVM – described as “the world’s leading video surveillance information source” — for alleged lobbying disclosure violations.  

In the letter, Hikvision accused IPVM personnel of asserting “punitive measures” against the Chinese company during meetings with U.S. lawmakers in violation of federal law.

“It is our understanding that IPVM’s failure to register after making these contacts is a violation” of the Lobbying Disclosure Act, the letter stated.

The letter from Hikvision was sent as IPVM published multiple investigations revealing the Chinese tech giant provides technology and services that help facilitate the human rights atrocities being committed against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

In March last year, IPVM researchers found that China had enlisted several tech companies – including Hikvision – to help create mass facial recognition systems to monitor for characteristics like ethnicity, Reuters reported.

The technical standards showed how the data gathered by the CCP from cameras placed throughout China could be broken down into dozens of individual features, including eyebrow size and skin color.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever seen public security camera networks that are tracking people by these sensitive categories explicitly at this scale,” said the report’s author, Charles Rollet.

“It’s ripe for abuse,” Rollet later added.

While the CCP has repeatedly denied committing any human rights violations against the Uyghurs, exiles from the region described the atrocities being committed against them by the Chinese Communist Party, including forced abortions, killings, torture, rape, enslavement, forced separation of children from their parents, forced sterilization, labor, enforced disappearances, destruction of cultural and religious heritage, persecution, forced marriages, and the imposition of Han Chinese men into Uyghur households.

In June, President Joe Biden issued an executive order listing Hikvision among 59 companies designated as Chinese military-linked firms that are subject to a ban on U.S. investments. The ban was implemented by then-President Donald Trump via executive order in 2020.

“If you’re meeting these repressive standards in China, that’s a big problem already,” said Caitlin Bishop, a campaigns officer with the human rights group Privacy International. “But then you’re sending technology around the world and that could be even more worrying.”