SurveillanceEU Uses Chinese Technology Linked to Muslim Internment Camps in Xinjiang

By James Franey

Published 27 October 2020

In the fight against coronavirus, the EU is using thermal cameras produced by Chinese tech giant Hikvision. The firm has been linked to the oppression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang province.

Two EU institutions are using technology produced by China’s Hikvision, a firm that has been accused of providing surveillance equipment to Muslim internment camps in the country’s northwest Xinjiang province.

Hikvision describes itself as “the world’s leading video surveillance products supplier.”

The Chinese tech giant has its European base in the Netherlands and has not been subject to any EU sanctions or blacklist measures.

Officials at the European Parliament and the European Commission acquired the company’s thermal imaging cameras as part of the fight against the spread of the new coronavirus.

The gadgets can detect a high temperature or fever, which is a common symptom of COVID-19.

Anyone with a temperature of more than 37.7°C (99.86°F) is denied entry.

Ministers, parliamentarians, senior diplomats, and staffers are asked to briefly stare into one of Hikvision’s cameras as soon as they enter the buildings in question.

Many will have been unaware they will come face to face with a firm accused of contributing to human rights abuses in China.

Trump Blacklisted Hikvision Last Year
US President Donald Trump’s administration decided to blacklist the Chinese company in October last year.

Washington added Hikvision to what is known as the US Entity List, a register of companies believed to pose a threat to national security or US foreign policy interests.

The move bans American companies from doing business with the firm without the government’s approval. 

In return, Hikvision is effectively barred from buying American products or software.

The Trump administration says the company has been “implicated in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

The US also accuses the company of being linked to the Chinese military, a charge the tech giant denies.

European Parliament, Commission Turn to Hikvision
The allegations surrounding Hikvision’s business dealings in Xinjiang are in the public domain.

Yet staff at the EU institutions acquired the company’s thermographic cameras when they brought in new coronavirus safety measures to fight the pandemic. 

The cameras have been placed at entrances throughout the European Parliament.

A DW journalist also saw similar Hikvision equipment installed at the European Commission’s main offices, the Berlaymont and Charlemagne buildings, in the heart of the Belgian capital’s European quarter.

Two staffers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the EU’s executive arm will bring in more thermal screening hardware at other offices in the Belgian capital. The Commission has some 60 buildings in Brussels.

A European Commission spokesperson, however, told DW that Hikvision equipment will not be used for the rest of the buildings.