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MPs call for Chinese CCTV ban

A cross party group of nearly 70 parliamentarians have called on the Government to ban the sale and operation of widely used CCTV brands linked to human rights abuses in China. The group includes former:- Conservative Ministers David Davis MP, Lord Bethell, Steve Baker MP, and Damien Green MP; leading Labour human rights figures Baroness Chakrabarti and Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws; Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey; SNP Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Alyn Smith; Green MP Caroline Lucas, and crossbench peers.

The 67 parliamentarians "condemn [Hikvision and Dahua's] involvement in technology enabled human rights abuses in China" calling for a ban on the tech being sold or used in the UK. They also called for "an independent national review of the scale, capabilities, ethics and rights impact of modern CCTV in the UK".

The statement, co-ordinated by privacy and civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, is also backed by rights groups including:- Rene Cassin, Stop Uyghur Genocide, Free Tibet and Hong Kong Watch.

Partly Chinese state owned CCTV manufacturers Hikvision and Dahua are now banned from trading in the US, owing to security concerns and evidence of their widespread use in so called:- "re-education" camps in Xinjiang where an estimated 1 million Uyghurs are detained and subjected to abuse, torture and forced sterilisation. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee called on the UK to follow suit with a ban of Chinese surveillance companies in November last year.

However, the Government has refused to act and new research shows that UK public bodies are awarding significant contracts to procure the controversial Chinese made technology. The MPs' statement follows a 6 month investigation involving thousands of Freedom of Information requests by Big Brother Watch, which found that the majority of public bodies use CCTV cameras made by Hikvision or Dahua, including:- 73% of Councils across the UK, 57% of Secondary Schools in England, 6 out of 10 NHS Trusts, as well as UK Universities and Police Forces.

A number of Government departments, including the Home Office and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), have Hikvision cameras visibly in use on the front of their buildings according to Big Brother Watch, although many departments refused to respond to their FOI requests about use of the technology.

The apparent presence of Hikvision cameras at the entrance of Government buildings has raised accusations of hypocrisy, given the Cabinet Office's warnings that UK companies:- "should consider the ethical implications of engaging with China on emerging technologies." The official guidance to tech firms on Chinese investment states:- "Our concerns include China's use of facial recognition and predictive computer algorithms for mass surveillance, profiling and repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and elsewhere (…) to expand social control and limit individual freedoms" activities widely attributed to Hikvision; and that trading with such companies involved in human rights violations:- "[poses] a significant risk to your business's reputation."

The Government has produced contradictory position statements on Departments' use of Hikvision. A Cabinet Office FOI response stated that:- "MOD [Ministry of Defence] guidance is not to use / install Hikvision equipment." However, in a response to a parliamentary question by David Davis MP on 10th February 2022, Defence Minister Jeremy Quin stated:- "The Ministry of Defence has not issued guidance to other Government Departments about the use of these [Hikvision] surveillance cameras."

Big Brother Watch's research has found that dozens of public bodies have the AI-equipped cameras capable of facial detection, gender recognition and behavioural analysis and offer advanced features such as identifying fights or if someone is wearing a face mask.

Hikvision and Dahua have previously been found to offer ethnicity profiling tools on their CCTV cameras in Xinjiang and both companies have signed several contracts to provide surveillance equipment for cities and concentration camps in the Region.

Cybersecurity experts have also identified a number of vulnerabilities in Hikvision and Dahua products over recent years that could endanger privacy. Reports from Italy found that a:- "flaw" in a Hikvision system led to cameras attempting to connect to servers in China.

This month, further security holes were found in Hikvision products as 1 of the company's main remote viewing software tools was found to connect directly to servers in China. Like with many other cybersecurity vulnerabilities, Hikvision blamed the flaws on outdated software.

Jake Hurfurt, Head of Research and Investigations at Big Brother Watch, said:- "Chinese state owned CCTV has no place watching Britain's streets. Hikvision and Dahua are closely linked to the genocide in Xinjiang and their low cost, high-tech cameras are normalising intrusive surveillance in the UK. It is horrifying that companies that provide the technological infrastructure for Beijing's crimes against humanity provide cameras to 61% of public bodies in the UK. The widespread use of Hikvision and Dahua CCTV in the UK is creating a dystopian surveillance state that poses serious rights and security risks to the British public, whilst indirectly supporting China's persecution of ethnic minorities. We urge the Prime Minister to follow the US example and urgently ban Hikvision and Dahua from operating in the UK. These revelations show the need for the Government to instigate an independent review of the scale, capabilities, rights and ethics of modern CCTV in Britain."

David Davis MP said:- "I have long campaigned against the worrying creep of the surveillance state. Big Brother Watch's latest findings show the shocking extent UK companies are relying on Chinese technology as part of their CCTV networks. This technology comes equipped with advance surveillance capabilities such as facial recognition, person tracking and gender identification. These pose a significant threat to civil liberties in our country. But in addition to the privacy concerns, these companies, Hikvision and Dahua, are Chinese state owned companies, raising urgent questions over whether they also pose a threat to national security. The US has already blacklisted the companies. We need to be in step with our international partners, and should also look to ban invasive and oppressive technology from these firms."

Baroness Shami Chakrabarti said:- "UK taxpayers should not be paying for human rights abusing Chinese tech, let alone doing so on such an extraordinary scale. We mustn't support abuses over there or replicate a China style surveillance state over here. We need an urgent and fully independent review of surveillance in modern Britain."

Public vote and official shortlist announced to choose home of Great British Railways

TRANSPORT Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that:- Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle Upon Tyne and York will compete for the honour of being crowned the home of Britain's railways following a competition that drew applications from 42 Towns and Cities.  The public vote, which will play a crucial role in determining the chosen location, has officially opened. Members of the public can choose the Town or City they think makes the best case for this prestigious honour online here, with the final decision made by the Transport Secretary later this year.  The central headquarters will be the heart of the rail network and will provide strategic direction for the running of GBR, as well as bringing a number of highly skilled jobs to the area.  As part of the Government's commitment to level up the UK, the new GBR headquarters will be based outside of London and bring high skilled jobs to the winning location. Local economies will be further boosted by a number of new Regional headquarters across the country, putting decision making and investment at the heart of the communities that use those railways day to day. 

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said:- "Our world leading railways have served this country well for 200 years and this is a huge step in the reforms, which will shape our network for the next 200. Great British Railways will create a truly sustainable, modern and fair railway network for passengers and freight customers. I'm calling on people across the country to play a key part in this once in a generation reform and vote for the new home of our railways." 

Leader of the Great British Railways transition team, Andrew Haines, said:- "A big congratulations to Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle and York for reaching the final stage in the Government's competition to find the national HQ for Great British Railways. Since the competition was launched it has been great to see the interest from towns and cities across Britain who believe GBR's home should be with them. I am really looking forward to the next step and seeing which town or City has the honour of being the home for GBR. Good luck to the final 6."

A huge 42 Cities and Towns came forward to place their bids to be the home of GBR HQ. Applications were measured against 6 key criteria:-

Alignment to levelling up objectives.

Connected and easy to get to.

Opportunities for GBR.

Railway heritage and links to the network.

Value for money.

Public support.

The creation of GBR was announced as a major pillar of the once in a generation reforms launched by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in the Williams Shapps Plan for Rail just over a year ago. GBR will be a single guiding mind that ends the fragmentation of the rail industry and drives benefits and improvements across the network for passengers and freight customers.  To mark 1 year since the launch of Williams Shapps Plan for Rail, in a speech, the Rail Minister will discuss the progress being made so far, including the launch of the Great British Railways Transition Team's Call for Evidence on new rail freight growth targets, which will improve the capacity and resilience of our supply chains and realise the industries economic and environmental benefits.


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