IPVM reveals as-yet unreported details about Hikvision’s activities in Xinjiang - a region of China where massive human rights abuses are being alleged - including:
- Contracts won by Hikvision to install surveillance systems in a re-education camp and mosques
- Evidence of Hikvision’s direct involvement in IJOP, a large-scale integrated surveillance program described by the Economist as "terrifying" and "as race-based as apartheid in South Africa was"
Xinjiang & Sanctions Background
Chinese authorities are accused of building a highly intrusive “surveillance state” in the historically Muslim region of Xinjiang while sending up to one million civilians to political re-education camps as part of a heavy-handed crackdown on terrorism and separatism.
In response, the US is considering Magnitsky sanctions on Chinese officials and “entities assisting [Xinjiang] officials in mass detentions and surveillance of ethnic minorities” such as Hikvision and Dahua, which IPVM revealed to have won over $1.2 billion in large-scale surveillance projects in Xinjiang since 2016. If passed, these sanctions would freeze all of Hikvision and Dahua’s US assets and ban US entities from doing business with them, effectively ending their US operations.
Pishan County: Hikvision Wins Another Re-education Camp and Mosque Surveillance Contract
In 2017, Hikvision won a $53m contract to build a mass facial recognition system (“皮山县社会面防控体系PPP”) in Xinjiang’s Pishan County.
While IPVM already listed this project in its original database, a bidding tender for the projectincludes the installation of a "surveillance system for the justice bureau’s Education through Transformation center" or “司法局教育转化基地监控系统” in Chinese. This is the exact term used by Chinese authorities to call the re-education camps – the idea being that detainees are “transformed” through mandatory political “education”.
The tender specifies a Private-Public Partnership between Xinjiang authorities and Hikvision, meaning Hikvision will construct and operate the project during a concession period with government support under the “DBFOT” or Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Transfer model.
Pishan County is the second contract supplying a re-education camp won by Hikvision. AFP journalist Ben Dooley was the first to reveal that Hikvision had won a contract to supply 6 panoramic cameras to a different re-education camp in Moyu County. Dooley notified IPVM on Twitter about the Pishan project’s possible inclusion of a re-education camp, which has now been confirmed by IPVM. Indeed, the Pishan surveillance project won by Hikvision was also listed in a database of re-education camp tenders compiled by prominent Xinjiang scholar Adrian Zenz.
Pishan: Mosque Surveillance Included
Similar to the mandatory installation of facial recognition cameras in mosques in Hikvision’s Moyu County project, the Pishan project also includes a video surveillance system for mosques (“清真寺视频联网系统”) and a video conferencing system.
James Leibold, an Australian university professor and Xinjiang expert, previously told IPVM the use of sophisticated cameras at places of worship represented a “chilling effect” on religious freedom by tracking and possibly flagging for detention those who regularly attend services.
Moreover, video conferencing systems provided by Hikvision would effectively eliminate the need for local imams to deliver unvetted sermons to their own communities, although this is not specified. The Moyu contract examined by IPVM specified that the system would allow attendees to watch sermons filmed in a studio run by the Chinese government’s Ethnic Affairs Commission on TV screens inside the mosque. Such a system was also deployed in Hikvision’s Moyu County project.
Yutian County: Hikvision Wins Another Mosque Surveillance Contract
In 2017, Hikvision won a $58m contract to build a “Safe City” in Yutian County (“新疆于田县平安城市PPP项目”).
The original tender for this contract also calls for a mosque surveillance and video conferencing system. No further details about this project are publicly available.
Hikvision Cited as Main Partner in IJOP Construction
Human Rights Watch says a big-data based surveillance program called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform is used to extensively spy on Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang, with officials using the system to log information about civilians’ “ideological situation”. HRW reported concerns that individuals flagged in the IJOP are sent off to the re-education camps.
The IJOP is being built by the CETC, which is Hikvision’s state-owned parent company. Hikvision has traditionally distanced itself from the CETC but new evidence shows it works closely with the group in Xinjiang.
A local IT company based in Xinjiang’s capital of Urumqi called Xinjiang Yuanjian Communication Technology recently posted a job advertisement for a technician and project manager that included a description of its own activities. This description says the company works directly with both Hikvision and the CETC to build the IJOP:
Our company cooperates with China Electronics Technology Group Corporation and Hangzhou Hikvision Technology Co., Ltd. to be responsible for the construction, implementation and operation and maintenance of the overall project. [emphasis added]
The company references the IJOP directly, writing:
In 2016, according to the requirements of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, the maintenance of social stability in Xinjiang required the accelerated construction of the ‘integrated joint operational platform’ in 60 pilot counties in Xinjiang. [emphasis added]
The company further notes that “in recent years, the terrorism and stability situation has been extremely severe” and that it works on big data-based facial recognition systems, video surveillance systems for mosques, and numerous other technologies.
Not Hikvision’s Only IJOP Connections
This is not the first time Hikvision has been tied to the IJOP. Human Rights Watch itself has previously stated that Hikvision won a contract for the second stage of the construction of the IJOP. HRW said the contract included WiFi probes or “sniffers” that track the unique addresses of networked devices. This allows the cameras to potentially track people via their smartphones or other personal electronics.
IJOP "Terrifying" And "Race-Based As Apartheid"
The Economist, in a May 2018 article titled China has turned Xinjiang into a police state like no other, described IJOP as follows:
A system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), first revealed by Human Rights Watch, uses machine-learning systems, information from cameras, smartphones, financial and family-planning records and even unusual electricity use to generate lists of suspects for detention. One official WeChat report said that verifying IJOP’s lists was one of the main responsibilities of the local security committee. Even without high-tech surveillance, Xinjiang’s police state is formidable. With it, it becomes terrifying.
In theory, the security system in Xinjiang applies to everyone equally. In practice it is as race-based as apartheid in South Africa was.
Author: Charles Rollet