The UK government on Thursday ordered its departments to stop installing Chinese-linked surveillance cameras on “sensitive sites”, citing security risks.
The new policy order applies to “visual surveillance systems” developed by China-based firms that are required by Chinese law to share intelligence with Beijing’s security services.
The decision has been undertaken by the Government Security Group after undertaking “a review of the current and future possible security risks associated with the installation of visual surveillance systems on the government estate.”
According to the Government Security Group, additional controls are required due to the increasing capability and connectivity of the Chinese surveillance systems in the UK.
“Departments have therefore been instructed to cease deployment of such equipment onto sensitive sites, where it is produced by companies subject to the National Intelligence Law of the People’s Republic of China,” Oliver Bowden, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said in a statement to Parliament.
“Since security considerations are always paramount around these sites, we are taking action now to prevent any security risks materialising.”
The UK government has advised departments that no Chinese-made surveillance cameras should be connected to departmental core networks. They should also consider removing and replacing such equipment deployed on “sensitive sites” without waiting for any scheduled upgrades.
In addition, the UK government has also been directed to consider whether Chinese surveillance equipment should be banned from areas “outside the definition of sensitive sites” to further mitigate the same risk.
“Government will continue to keep this risk under review and will take further steps if and when they become necessary,” Dowden concluded.
In response to Dowden’s statement, Hikvision, which is partially a state-owned Chinese firm, has an estimated 1.3 million cameras that are operational in Britain.
The company said that its cameras are compliant with the rules and regulations of the UK government, and subject to strict security requirements.
“It is categorically false to represent Hikvision as a threat to national security. No respected technical institution or assessment has come to this conclusion. Hikvision cannot transmit data from end users to third parties, we do not manage end-user databases, nor do we sell cloud storage in the UK,” a Hikvision spokesperson said.
“We have always been fully transparent about our operations in the UK and have been engaging with the UK government to clarify misunderstandings about the company, our business, and address their concerns. We will seek to urgently engage further with ministers to understand this decision.”