US

HikVision’s Case Raises Awareness of National Security and Human Rights Risks

By Kitty Wang

The Trump administration may place restrictions on five Chinese companies that make surveillance equipment in an effort to increase security for Americans.

Roger Robinson, Former Senior Director of International Economic Affairs, National Security Council said Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE have faced restrictions, and “HikVision is going to hit the wall on that Entity List. Remembering that their parent company has already been put on the Entity List because they’re—big surprise—a national security violator.”

Last month, more than 40 U.S. Congressional members, including Senator Marco Rubio, called on the Trump administration to raise the disclosure requirements of some Chinese companies listed on the U.S. financial market. They said these companies pose a national security risk and are also allegedly involved in human rights violations. The letter singled-out HikVision for enabling surveillance and mass detention of the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang in China’s northwest.

The American people would find it “very troubling, indeed even an outrage,” if they found out their retirement and investment dollars were invested in companies that are blatantly abusing human rights—that are “aiding and abetting repression,” Robinson said.

In March, large U.S. investment funds such as Goldman Sachs and Fidelity sold the HikVision stocks they held. However, both the New York State and California State Teachers’ Retirement System still have investments in HikVision.

Robinson suggested that HikVision and some other Chinese companies may face greater difficulty in the future.

“You’ve never seen, to my knowledge, a company like HikVision—divested from a major American index fund for reasons of human rights and national security. I don’t think it happened [before], and if it does, it’s a major precedent that opens the door to another number of questionable companies,” Robinson said.

He said there are now more than 650 Chinese companies operating in the U.S. capital market, and the scale of potential economic risk is close to one trillion dollars. At this scale, he said, national security and human rights must be taken seriously.