Tesco wants to phase out Chinese-made surveillance cameras over security and human rights fears

Tesco said it has ‘a responsibility to maintain safety in our stores’ – PA

Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket, is set to remove Chinese CCTV surveillance cameras from its stores after warning of their safety and ethical risks.

The company has told activists that it is removing equipment supplied by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua over their involvement in alleged human rights abuses in China’s repression of the Uyghur Muslim minority.

Hikvision was also banned from shipping its technology to the US after deeming it an unacceptable risk to America’s national security. Under Chinese law, companies must “support, support and cooperate” with the work of state intelligence.

The UK government has also told its departments to stop installing surveillance cameras with Chinese links in sensitive buildings, and UK police forces are reviewing their use of the equipment amid growing fears Beijing is spying on the West.

Tesco unveiled its policy change in a response to campaign groups led by Big Brother Watch, who wrote to leading supermarkets urging them to remove Hikvision and Dahua cameras from their stores because they are linked to “grave human rights abuses and links to significant security issues”. were involved.

“These companies provide technologies that facilitate the persecution and repression of ethnic and religious groups in the Uighur (“Xinjiang”) region, Tibet and Hong Kong that have no place in Britain,” they said.

“These cameras also raise serious security concerns given their ties to the Chinese state and history of security flaws.”

Jason Tarry, Tesco Chief Executive, replied: “We have a strong commitment to ethical sourcing and human rights and do not tolerate any form of human rights abuse in our supply chain. When we became aware of the allegations related to Hikvision and Dahua, we immediately took action to identify alternative suppliers.

“While we recognize the seriousness of these allegations, due to the size and complexity of our business and our responsibility to maintain security in our stores, it will be some time before all equipment can be replaced. We can confirm that we are in the process of transitioning to new suppliers.”

The cooperative said it has a “limited stock” of Hikvision cameras and hardware but will be considering alternative suppliers as part of a CCTV equipment review later this year.

The appeal to stop using the companies was sent out by Big Brother Watch, Hong Kong Watch, Stop Uyghur Genocide and Free Tibet.

Big Brother Watch’s legal and policy officer, Madeleine Stone, said Tesco’s decision set an important precedent. “Other retailers must now follow suit and remove these abusive surveillance devices from their stores. There is no excuse for funding companies linked to crimes against humanity,” she said.

Surveillance Commissioner Professor Fraser Sampson welcomed Tesco’s move but said other shops and the police should follow suit.

“Those supermarkets that have yet to follow should see how they are expanding the ethical standards for free-range eggs very well and are still happy to sign deals with some of these companies,” said Prof Sampson.

“It seems they apply different ethical standards to caged chickens than to caged humans.”

A poll by Prof Sampson found police forces are being “shot through” with Chinese-made cameras despite security concerns, including equipment made by Huawei, which was banned from the UK’s 5G phone network last year.

Hikvision said it was “categorically wrong” to say it posed a threat to national security, adding that it was scrupulously following UK rules and regulations. It said it sold its products through distribution partners, which meant it had no access to end-user data, nor the ability to share it.

It said it had spoken to governments about “misunderstandings” over allegations of human rights abuses, which it took very seriously.

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