China is Britain’s biggest supplier of surveillance equipment, raising security concerns over some of the Asian giant’s investments in the country.
Hikvision, a company controlled by the Chinese government, has sold more than a million closed-circuit television cameras and recorders to British clients, online news provider International Business Times UK reports.
The cameras have been used in airports, stadiums and the London Tube, the report said.
They can recognize car number plates, track moving vehicles, use thermal imagery to see at night, and can be connected to the internet.
Concerns were raised after it was revealed that no national security assessment had been made of Hikvision’s operations in the country, London-based The Sun said.
It is estimated that 1.27 million Hikvision cameras will be used in Britain by the end of the year, or 14 percent of the British video surveillance market, according to IBTimes.
Around a quarter of them will monitor public sector buildings, the report added.
The Government Communications Headquarters is said to be worried that the government does not have a policy to assess the security risk of foreign investments.
Nigel Inkster, former director of operations and intelligence at MI6, told The Times: “There are questions to be asked. It’s far from evident that they have been. If you’ve got cameras that are IP enabled … they could potentially be used for malign purposes.
“I can think of a hypothetical case of a Chinese [dissident] making his way to a police station seeking protection of asylum. It doesn’t require a Nobel prize-winning intellect to work out what the possible implications of that could be. I think there are questions to be asked,” he said.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary, said the government and western allies need to carry out a “much more comprehensive assessment as to what is the line we will not cross with regard to giving China access to our infrastructure”.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of backing down on security concerns about Chinese investment in the country after she approved the partly Chinese-funded 18 billion pound (US$23.5 billion) Hinkley Point nuclear power facility in Essex last week.
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