The US is considering blacklisting the Chinese technology company Hikvision – a world leader in video surveillance products that include artificial intelligence, speech monitoring and genetic testing which broadens the capacity for facial and body traits recognition -after the Commerce Department brought forth foreign and human rights considerations to the House Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.
Hikvision supplies surveillance cameras that the Chinese government uses in the Muslim-majority Xinjiang region, where more than 3 million ethnic Uyghurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people, are being rounded up by the Chinese Communist Party and thrown into reeducation camps.
Washington could invoke the Magnitsky Act, which allows the US to sanction government officials implicated in human rights abuses, high-ranking officials such as Chen Quanguo, Xinjiang’s Communist Party head since August 2016.
The technology developed by Hikvision is being exported to nations that seek a surveillance capacity similar to the what is employed by China’s secret police, including Ecuador, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe, and the United Arab Emirates.
Hikvision employs 34,000 staff worldwide and has also taken major contracts such as the Beijing Olympics, the Brazilian World Cup, and the Linate Airport in Milan. Since 2019, Congress has banned the use of Hikvision technology by federal agencies.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to Chinese surveillance capacity as “stuff reminiscent of the 1930s” and undermines US national security.
The White House is campaigning to limit Chinese access to advanced American technology. The Department of Commerce is drawing up new regulations to restrict US exports of 14 advanced technologies, including robotics and quantum computing.
Chinese companies spend billions in buying products from US companies and the move could hurt companies such as Qualcomm and Intel.
Washington gives Huawei 90-day reprieve
The Commerce Department issued a 90-day reprieve on their ban on dealing with Huawei. This will give the Chinese tech giant a temporary license to deal with US companies for a temporary transition period.
“The Temporary General Licence grants operators time to make other arrangements and (gives) the Department space to determine the appropriate long-term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
The delay does not change the ban imposed by the White House, which was based on national security grounds. US intelligence believes Huawei is backed by the Chinese military and its equipment provide Beijing’s intelligence services and serves as a backdoor into the communications networks of rival countries.
Washington has applied pressure on its European allies – the second biggest market for Huawei after China – to ban the company from procurement for the development of 5G infrastructure.
Google has already announced that it would restrict Huawei’s access to the Android operating software, a move that will be followed by US semiconductor manufacturers Intel, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Micron, and Cypress.
The founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, said Huawei was “very grateful” to US companies that were instrumental in building up the company, while also underscoring that the Chinese behemoth was instrumental in the growth of Android around the world.
Huawei’s rival, ZTE, maybe in a worse position to deal with the disruption of supply in semiconductors as it produces none of its own.
France will not exclude Huawei from 5G network development
France’s Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said that any decision for the development of 5G network infrastructure will be based on security and performance considerations and that Huawei would be excluded in principle.
“We will make decisions based on the technological interest and strategic security of our networks,” Le Maire said, while adding that it is not certain Huawei had the best technology in the sector, as Sweden’s Ericsson “is also competing for the same procurement contracts”.
This echoed a statement by French President Emmanuel Macron, who appears to be steering France towards a collision course with the US government despite warnings that French telecoms would be at risk of being infiltrated by Chinese intelligence, France’s national regulatory authority for electronic communications, ARCEP, has instead opted to press forward as it does not want to delay the rollout of 5G infrastructure beyond 2020.