Ban on Chinese surveillance cameras in ‘sensitive’ Government sites

pa ready, oliver dowden, chinese, government, care, whitehall, matt hancock, chancellor, duchy of lancaster, westminster, hikvision, department of health, republic, cctv, ban on chinese surveillance cameras in ‘sensitive’ government sites

Government departments have been ordered to stop installing surveillance cameras made by Chinese firms on “sensitive sites” due to security concerns (PA) (PA Wire)

Government departments have been ordered to stop installing surveillance cameras made by Chinese firms on “sensitive sites” due to security concerns.

The order applies to “visual surveillance systems” made by firms subject to China’s national security law, which requires companies to co-operate with Beijing’s security services.

Whitehall ministries have been told existing equipment should not be connected to departmental core networks and consideration should be given to removing it entirely.

The shift in policy was announced by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden and follows concern in Westminster about the use of Chinese-made equipment.

Mr Dowden told MPs: “The Government Security Group has undertaken a review of the 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.

“Departments have therefore been instructed to cease deployment of such equipment on to sensitive sites, where it is produced by companies subject to the national intelligence law of the People’s Republic of China.

“Since security considerations are always paramount around these sites, we are taking action now to prevent any security risks materialising.”

Mr Dowden said “no such equipment should be connected to departmental core networks” and ministries should consider whether they should immediately remove and replace such equipment from sensitive sites, rather than wait for scheduled upgrades.

Officials have also been urged to consider whether the same “risk mitigation” should be extended to locations that are not designated “sensitive”.

The move follows concerns raised by MPs and a surveillance watchdog.

In June, the biometrics and surveillance camera commissioner Fraser Sampson said: “Almost every aspect of our lives is now under surveillance using advanced systems designed by, and purchased from, companies under the control of other governments, governments to whom those companies have data sharing obligations within their own domestic legal framework.”

The public surveillance infrastructure was built on “digital asbestos”, Mr Sampson warned, “requiring both considerable caution when handling the products installed by a previous generation and, as a priority, a moratorium on any further installation until we fully understand the risks we have created”.

The Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has previously called for the prohibition of equipment manufactured by Hikvision and other companies said to have had their cameras deployed in internment camps in China’s Xinjiang province.

It was reported Hikvision cameras were used inside the Department of Health and Social Care, where security concerns were raised over leaked CCTV showing then-health secretary Matt Hancock kissing an aide.

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