Chinese surveillance technology giant Hikvision has denied it is illegally disguising its products sold to the US government to enable Chinese espionage.
It was responding to BBC queries about allegations revealed in a recently leaked Pentagon document.
But Hikvision did not answer questions on whether it partners with Chinese intelligence agencies.
The company is the world’s largest surveillance camera maker and has close links to the Chinese state.
It supplies its products to resellers who in turn supply governments and companies, often with the resellers’ branding, in a process known as “white labelling”.
Though this is a common business model, Hikvision has come under intense scrutiny for its ties to the Chinese state and the use of its products in monitoring Uyghurs.
The US had previously banned Hikvision products from its government supply chains, but in November regulators took this a step further and put in place a nationwide ban, citing concerns over national security.
In a leaked US government document seen by the BBC, Hikvision is described as “partnering with Chinese intelligence entities” and “using relationships with resellers to disguise its products for sale to government suppliers”.
It claims this was “creating vectors for Beijing to compromise DoD [Department of Defense] networks”, and that the presence of Hikvision products would probably persist in US government supply chains “because of the company’s efforts to mask its exports to retain access to US and allies’ markets”.
The document also claims that as of January, white-labelled Hikvision products were still available to customers in the US government.
In response to BBC queries about the allegations, a Hikvision spokesperson said “it has not, does not and will not violate the law in order to conduct its business”, and that it has “very clear and longstanding policies in place to prevent the improper labelling of its products by anyone for any reason”.
The company said it has been working with the US government for many years to keep its products off their supply chains and to “make sure our cameras are never sold improperly” to the US government.
The Hikvision spokesperson did not answer queries on whether the company partners with Chinese intelligence agencies and passes client information to them.
The company has in the past repeatedly denied that it presents a national security threat to governments. It previously said it cannot access end users’ data and therefore cannot transmit it to third parties.
Hikvision’s biggest shareholder is the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation.
It has also won multimillion-dollar contracts from the government as China builds a vast surveillance network across the country – including in Xinjiang, where the government is accused of committing genocide against the Uyghurs. Critics say Hikvision has been aiding Chinese oppression against the Muslim minority.
The company has been the subject of increased suspicion, particularly from Western countries which have in recent months sought to stop or root out Hikvision’s presence.
In the UK, government departments were told in November to stop installing surveillance cameras made by Chinese companies on “sensitive sites” because of security concerns. Officials have been told to consider removing existing equipment entirely.
The Australian government said in February it would remove Chinese-made surveillance cameras from defence sites.
Source : BBC