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Police force that protects UK's nuclear power plants use cameras from sanctioned Chinese firm Hikvision

Business Insider US
Surveillance cameras outside the Hikvision headquarters in Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang province Wednesday, May 22, 2019. LONG WEI/Future Publishing via Getty Images
Surveillance cameras outside the Hikvision headquarters in Hangzhou in east China's Zhejiang province Wednesday, May 22, 2019. LONG WEI/Future Publishing via Getty Images
  • The police who protect Britain's nuclear power plants use Hikvision cameras, a document reveals.
  • Hikvision is on a US trade blacklist and may face further sanctions from the Biden administration.
  • The Civil Nuclear Constabulary say the cameras are used only for their administrative buildings.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The police force who protect Britain's nuclear power plants are using cameras produced by a Chinese firm that has been sanctioned by the US government and is implicated in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

A disclosure by the Civil Nuclear Constabulary to a freedom of information request reveals the force's major supplier of camera uses Hikvision models as their primary CCTV system.

The Civil Nuclear Constabulary protect the UK's 10 civil nuclear sites, including the five sites with operational nuclear reactors. Due to the sensitivity of their work, unlike regular British police forces, frontline officers are routinely armed.

The force says it is not responsible for the cameras used at the power plants, and that the Hikvision cameras are only used at the constabulary's training and administration facilities.

Hikvision, a Chinese state-backed surveillance camera firm, is under export and investment restrictions by the US. The Biden administration is considering further sanctions of the firm, which is accused to be enabling human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, according to a Financial Times report.

A number of senior Conservative MPs criticised the force's use of the cameras, given the sensitivity of the work.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee and head of the China Research Group, told Insider: "This raises serious questions about whether we're taking national security seriously. 

"This is a company which works hand-in-hand with the CCP's surveillance state. It shouldn't be anywhere near our nuclear security."

Iain Duncan Smith, a former party leader and ex-minister, told Insider the use of the cameras was "ridiculous" and "outrageous".

"There is no excuse for having Hikvision cameras in any establishment owned by the government," he said.

"This is particularly sensitive and those responsible for this must really be incredibly stupid if they've allowed this to happen. Those who made this decision should find themselves another job. They should stop it at once."

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP, said the constabulary had to explain "why they need the sort of technology that Hikvision can provide, and what use is made of any information that is captured by it."

In February, the campaign group Big Brother Watch published a report on the use of Hikvision cameras in the UK, calling for the British government to ban the sale and use of Hikvision technology in the UK.

Madeleine Stone, legal and policy officer at the civil liberties group, told Insider: "It is deeply alarming that the Civil Nuclear Constabulary is using CCTV built by this Chinese state-owned company, particularly given the importance of their work to national security.

"Not only do Hikvision cameras have a worryingly poor security record but a shocking ethical record too given their widespread use in Xinjiang concentration camps."

A spokesperson for the force told Insider: "As per the information released as part of a Freedom of Information request, the CNC receives services from two suppliers for CCTV and one of the makes of cameras used by these suppliers is Hikvision. The contracts with the two suppliers, Renards and SPIE, expired on 31 March 2022 and have been extended for a further six months.

"These cameras are not at the 10 licensed nuclear sites that we protect but at two training/administration facilities. Neither of these facilities were funded or built by the CNC and the cameras referred to were in place when the CNC took occupation."

Hikvision say the firm engages fully with inquiries and allegations into human rights abuses, suggesting there are "misunderstandings about the company."

A Hikvision spokesperson said: "Hikvision takes all reports regarding human rights very seriously and recognises our responsibility for protecting people and property, reflected in the importance we place on our values as a good global corporate citizen. The company has been engaging with governments globally to clarify misunderstandings about the company, our business, and address their concerns.

"In the recent past we have cooperated with UK government inquiries, including the Business and Foreign Affairs select committees, where the UK government rejected the request to ban Hikvision's continued operation in the UK.

"Hikvision does not manage end user databases, nor do we sell cloud storage in the UK – this service would need to be provided by a third party as chosen by the end-user."

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