The world’s largest video surveillance company Hikvision is currently listed as a threat to U.S. national security. The company’s newly released annual report shows that a Chinese military industrial group is its controller.
In the past two years, Hikvision has been blacklisted by Washington authorities because of its relationship with Chinese military and the security risk it brought to the United States. Hikvision previously denied its connection with the Chinese military and asked the White House to allow it to do business in the U.S. market.
“To protect the United States homeland and the American people, I hereby declare a national emergency with respect to this threat [from Hikvision and several other blacklisted Chinese military related companies],” then-U.S. President Donald Trump announced in his executive order against Hikvision on Nov. 17, 2020.
On April 24, Hikvision published its 2020 annual report (pdf), listing China Electronics Technology Group Ltd. (CETC) is its “actual controller.” CETC is one of the major Chinese military industrial groups, and is China’s largest electronics defense contractor.
Under the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime, all military industrial groups have to obey the orders of the regime.
Hikvision is believed to bring a security threat to the United States, collecting surveillance data from equipment that they supplied to the United States, and helping the Chinese military to develop weapons.
Hikvision has “been found to pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons,” the Federal Communication Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau said in a statement on March 12. The FCC pointed out that Hikvision collects details of Americans’ lives, such as work, school, and health care.
Hikvision, whose full name is Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd., was founded in 2001. The company supplies complete surveillance systems that use video cameras, radar, sensors and drones to collect data, and uses video and audio processing technologies, artificial intelligence, and big data to analyze the data collected.
Hikvision has participated in the CCP’s Orwellian style surveillance network—Skynet and its sub-project Dazzling Snow that only covers rural areas since the dictatorship first planned it in early 2000s.
With the business expanding, Hikvision’s equipment surveils not only Chinese people, but also those who live in free countries.
In February, Thomson Reuters Foundation released an exclusive report showing that 28 of the 32 London borough councils used technologies that were supplied by Hikvision.
The company’s 2020 annual report stated, “Hikvision has established 19 regional function centers overseas, with 66 branches under it … providing services to 155 countries and regions.”
Ties to CCP’s Military
Hikvision has close connections with the CCP and its military, not only in the company’s management, but also in its business.
Chen Zongnian, chairman of Hikvision and representative of the 52nd Institute of CETC, is also a CCP representative within Hikvision, according to the company. Qu Liyang, director of Hikvision’s innovation division, is also a CCP representative in the company. And the company operates under the monitoring of a party committee.
Hikvision’s official website posted the CCP’s activities in the company regularly. The main subject of these posts is the same, which is “upholding and improving the CCP’s leadership.”
Hikvision’s controlling company CETC is part of the Chinese military industrial complex. China has 10 military industrial complexes, which cover nuclear weapons, aerospace, ships and vessels, tanks, armored vehicles, ammunition, and electronics.
CETC is the only electronics military industrial complex. Its products equip all Chinese armed forces, including telecommunication systems, radar, software, hardware, command and control systems, and surveillance systems that cover the ocean, aerospace, cyberspace, and other areas, according to Chinese media outlet Military Aviation Research.
Hikvision itself gave examples of how the company is involved in Chinese defense on its website.
Li Yanxiang is a Hikvision engineer. He represented the company, working closely with several weapons experts from the General Armament Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), as well as combat units’ commanders, to develop weapons and then wrote an article that was published on Hikvision’s official website on March 18, 2015.
Li said that PLA soldiers shot missiles based on their experiences and those learned from others, which weren’t accurate and caused some missiles to miss the targets during the drills.
Li then suggested developing a new system to improve the accuracy of missiles by using surveillance technology.
“[We should] use the surveillance cameras to capture the moment when the missile reaches the target or misses the target, and collect the wind speed as well as the temperature and air humidity. Then we can calculate whether the angle of incidence is correct and in which angle the missile has the strongest force of penetration/lethality,” Li wrote.
Li said the surveillance system also needs to collect data on the land where the soldiers shoot the missile and where the target is, the radius of the explosion, and whether a missile is dumped.
“The surveillance system should capture the details of the moment when the missile/rocket/cannonball hit the target, and record the explosion. Then with professional ballistic trajectory analysis software, we can have accurate data of the angle of incidence [and all the other data],” Li said.
He then talked briefly about the surveillance system that Hikvision would supply. “We need to use high-speed cameras, which can capture at least 200 to 500 frames per second. With a lot of the footage, we need to build a local memory server and power supply.”
In the article, Li mentioned ground-to-air missiles, ground-to-ground missiles that shoot from fixed launchers, and ground-to-ground missiles that shoot from moving launchers.