The U.S. government is weighing on limiting Chinese video surveillance firm Hikvision’s ability to buy U.S. technology, according to reports.
The New York Times reported last week that this move would eventually place Hikvision on the U.S. Security Entity List, meaning U.S. companies may need government approval to supply components and engage business with Hikvision.
According to one lawyer specializing in US export controls, the US government could add the tech company to that group based both on concerns on human rights and for national security, given the company’s products which are mostly cameras with facial recognition technologies.
The export ban on Hikvision would be the same as the one applied to Huawei, which is currently embroiled a series of blows after being included in the US government’s Security Entity List.
In response, a Hikvision executive, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue said the chips the company uses are very commercial, and most of the suppliers are actually in China even though there are some in the U.S.
She added that even if the U.S. stops selling them to Hikvision, it can remedy this through other suppliers. The company also told local Chinese media that the US ban would not have a significant impact to its operations as it is sourcing equipment not only from the US but also from countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Should US companies stop supplying chips and other components to the company, Hikvision said it could supplement its needs through other commercial means.
Hikvision, based in Hangzhou, dominated the surveillance camera manufacturing industry between 2011 and 2017, owning 38% in global market share in 2017, according to a report by data IHS Markit published in July 2018.
Last month, a letter signed by over 40 lawmakers addressed to US Pres. Donald Trump’s top advisers cited that Hikvision and Dahua Technology, a Chinese audio-visual equipment manufacturer, can be used by China for surveillance.
China has faced accusations of committing crimes against humanity from Western countries and human rights groups for establishing facilities that UN experts report as mass detention centers holding more than a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims.
The lawmakers urged stricter US export controls to ensure that American companies are not assisting or involved in the Chinese government’s crackdown there.
Beijing has said its actions in Xinjiang, which some reports say includes widespread surveillance of the population, are targetted at curbing the threat of Islamist militancy. The government also said that the facilities or camps that have launched are vocational training center.