Citing security concerns, the British government on Thursday (Nov. 24) ordered its departments to halt installing CCTV systems with connections to China at sensitive locations.
The revised rule pertains to "visual surveillance systems" manufactured by businesses that are obligated by Chinese legislation to work with Beijing's security forces. Officials have been advised to take into consideration completely removing the current equipment.
In a written statement to parliament, cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden said the choice was made after consideration of "current and future possible security risks associated with the installation of visual surveillance systems on the government estate."
"The review has concluded that, in light of the threat to the UK and the increasing capability and connectivity of these systems, additional controls are required," Dowden said.
When asked why the government was not demanding the replacement of all current Chinese-made surveillance equipment, a representative for the prime minister replied the problem was "under constant review and this is a preventative step that's been taken in line with that approach."
The decision comes in response to MPs and a surveillance watchdog warning in June that the public surveillance infrastructure was built on "digital asbestos"
The restriction comes months after dozens of MPs called for a ban on the sale and use of security cameras manufactured by Hikvision and Dahua, two partially state-owned Chinese corporations, due to privacy issues and suspicions that the companies' equipment may be related to human rights violations in China.
According to privacy activist group Big Brother Watch, the majority of British government agencies utilize Hikvision or Dahua security cameras.
Hikvision cameras are clearly visible on the front of several government buildings, including the interior and business ministries, the group had said.
In a statement to Reuters, Hikvision refuted the allegations and promised to continue attempting to communicate with British authorities in order to understand the ruling.
"It is categorically false to represent Hikvision as a threat to national security," a representative for the firm said:
The British office of Dahua has yet to respond.
The U.S. has imposed trade and usage restrictions on cameras manufactured by Hikvision, Dahua, and other Chinese companies.
"Departments have therefore been instructed to cease deployment of such equipment onto sensitive sites, where it is produced by companies subject to the National Intelligence Law of the People's Republic of China," Dowden said.
"Since security considerations are always paramount around these sites, we are taking action now to prevent any security risks materializing."