Majority of Scottish Councils using Chinese state-linked CCTV companies

Scotland's councils should not be fuelling Chinese-state repression.

A Freedom of Information request (FoI) from the Scottish Greens show that at least 20 Scottish councils are using CCTV systems flagged as security risks due to their manufacturers’ links with the Chinese government.

The FoI data shows that, of those that listed their suppliers, seven councils have confirmed they are using CCTV produced by Hikvision, which was blacklisted by the USA in 2019 due to concerns about its role in the targeting of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

In 2022, the Scottish Government committed to phasing out the use of Hikvision CCTV cameras for public bodies including Police Scotland as part of a ‘security improvement programme’, but hundreds of the company's cameras are still used by local councils.

Other Chinese-owned companies whose products are used include Dahua, as well as Taiwanese owned Nuuo and US owned Honeywell, both of which have been accused by the UK Government’s independent watchdog on surveillance of using Chinese components in their technology.

Twelve councils did not provide information on their CCTV networks to the Scottish Greens and of the twenty who did, only seven identified manufacturers. Hikvision was one of the systems used by all seven.

Scottish Greens external affairs spokesperson, Ross Greer MSP, said: “No public body should be funding companies complicit in Chinese state oppression, nor should they be using systems already blacklisted by the Scottish Government or flagged by the surveillance watchdog.

“China’s brutal dictatorship has built an all-encompassing surveillance apparatus which enabled it to imprison two million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps,  destroy democracy in Hong Kong and engage in decades of cultural genocide and human rights abuses in Tibet.

“Every Scottish council has a choice about the companies they do business with. There are few international crimes as grotesque and grievous as China’s mass internment of Uyghur people. Our public money shouldn’t be lining the profit margins of the companies enabling that oppression, especially when it also entails such obvious security and privacy risks for people here in Scotland.”

Mr Greer has been a strong critic of the Chinese regime, and has led calls for Chinese state companies and organisations such as Confucius Institutes to be removed from Scottish universities, schools and other institutions.

Mark Sabah, director of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation said: "As more Governments from around the world wake up to the risk of having Hikvision and other Chinese-produced cameras and surveillance equipment inside Government and public bodies, it's outrageous that Scottish local authorities are continuing to use products made by CCP-controlled organisations. 

“The same equipment which is currently being used in Scotland is also being used to monitor, surveil and repress Tibetans, Uyghurs, Hong Kongers, and many other Chinese dissidents. There is no Scottish or UK public body that should have any of these companies anywhere near the corridors of power."