UK to remove Chinese-made surveillance equipment from sensitive govt sites

By Muvija M and Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain has committed to the removal of Chinese-made surveillance equipment from sensitive government sites as part of its latest plans to address national security concerns related to China.

Under Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who has cast China as the world’s greatest challenge to security and prosperity, the government told its departments last year to stop installing Chinese-linked surveillance cameras at sensitive buildings.

In an announcement setting out a proposed tightening of procurement rules, the government said:

“We will also commit to publish a timeline for the removal of surveillance equipment produced by companies subject to China’s National Intelligence Law from sensitive central government sites.

“By committing to this timeline, we are providing reassurance and urgency around the removal plans.”

The statement did not name specific companies.

UK to remove Chinese-made surveillance equipment from sensitive govt sites
A surveillance camera is seen in the Kings Cross area in London, Britain, August 14, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

British lawmakers have previously called for a ban on the sale and use of security cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua, two partly state-owned Chinese firms, over privacy fears and concerns of the companies’ products being linked to human rights abuses in China.

“We believe that the possible action by the UK Government is a further step up of the mounting geopolitical tensions being expressed through technology bans, which by no means relates to the security of Hikvision’s products,” Hikvision said in a statement.

Beijing has said it “firmly opposes” overstretching the concept of national security to suppress Chinese enterprises.

“The Chinese government has always encouraged Chinese companies to conduct international investment and cooperation in accordance with market principles, international rules and local laws,” a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Britain said in a statement.

“We urge the UK side to stop political manipulation and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for the normal operation of Chinese companies in the UK.”

Britain barred TikTok on government phones in March this year, while in 2020 it said it would ban Huawei from its 5G network. Some U.S. states have banned vendors and products from several Chinese technology companies.