US 'could blacklist' Chinese surveillance kit firm Hikvision

Lily Kuo in Beijing


The US is reportedly considering restricting Hikvision, a Chinese surveillance equipment provider active in Xinjiang, from buying US components, escalating already tense ties between the world’s two largest economies.

According to the New York Times, the US commerce department is considering placing Hikvision on a trade blacklist that would require US companies to obtain government approval before supplying it with components.

The report sent the company’s shares down, even as Hikvision said it had received no notice of the potential blacklisting and that its operations in Xinjiang had never been “inappropriate”.

China has come under increasing international scrutiny over mounting evidence of the mass surveillance and detentions of millions of members of a Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

Adding Hikvision to the blacklist would add to tensions between the US and China, which have been locked in a tariff war for most of the last year. It also raises concerns that the world’s two largest economies are on the edge of a full-blown tech cold war as the US moves to restrict Chinese technology.

Last week, the US placed the Chinese telecom giant Huawei on the list, citing national security concerns, and effectively barring companies such as Google and US chipmakers from doing business with the firm.

According to the New York Times, officials could make a decision about Hikvision within the next few weeks. Shares in the company, one of the world’s largest providers of audio and visual surveillance equipment, opened 10% lower on Wednesday following the report. Shares recovered and were down 6.12% by the afternoon.

The company said on Wednesday it had not been subjected to any investigation by a government or human rights organisation over “so-called Hikvision Xinjiang human rights issues”.

The company told the state-run Global Times: “Hikvision is a product supplier. We have never engaged in inappropriate behaviour in Xinjiang. The company has not, is not and will not operate business under the condition of human rights violations.”

Hikvision said it had hired US professionals to review its business operations in Xinjiang and would “respond to the concerns of overseas stakeholders after collecting sufficient evidence”.

An executive with the company, who asked not to be named, told Reuters the company would be able to remedy any loss of access to US components.

“The chips Hikvision uses are very commercial and most of the suppliers are actually in China although there are some in the United States,” she said. “Even if the US stops selling them to us we can remedy this through other suppliers”.