US authorities are considering adding China-based biometric surveillance specialist Hikvision to a more severe blacklist, according to a Financial Times report.
The company had previously landed on the US Entity List – along with numerous other Chinese firms – under the Trump administration, ostensibly because of its alleged involvement as a technology vendor in the Chinese government’s repressive surveillance regime in Xinjiang, a region known for its predominantly Uighur Muslim population. That move also came amid a larger economic battle that the Trump administration had been waging against its rival China.
Now, the Biden administration is considering escalated sanctions against companies involved in Xinjiang’s human rights abuses, with Hikvision one of the firms under consideration. Officials have not yet made a decision, but are weighing whether to add the company to the Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons list (abbreviated “SDN”), which would bar any American companies or citizens from doing business with Hikvision.
The reported deliberations are happening in the wake of a call from the United Kingdom’s Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner for government agencies in that country to blacklist Hikvision. According to Commissioner Fraser Sampson, Hikvision had failed to answer repeated queries about its involvement in human rights abuses in China, leading him to suggest that it should be ruled out from consideration as a vendor last month.
If the Biden administration does move forward with adding Hikvision to the SDN list, it would mark the first time that a Chinese tech company has been placed on it. And that could open the door for further such efforts: speaking to Bloomberg, Modular Asset Management SP Pte. strategist Wai Ho Leong commented that the move would create “fresh uncertainty in that in the future, successful Chinese companies could be targeted in this way.”
Adding Hikvision to the SDN list would likely bring some upheaval to security infrastructure within the United States, with the New York Police Department having reportedly deployed Hikvision cameras in its own surveillance efforts.
Sources: South China Morning Post, Bloomberg, Financial Times
May 6, 2022 – by Alex Perala