EU Institution staff reject Hikvision surveillance equipment and Uyghur repression

EU Institution staff reject Hikvision surveillance equipment and Uyghur repression

On 11 November 2020, an open letter was sent to Mr Johannes Hahn, Commissioner in charge of Budget and Human Resources for the EU Institutions by the Renouveau & Démocratie’s trade union rejecting the use of Hikvision technologies in light of its association with China’s human rights abuses and specifically the oppression of millions of Uyghur.

President Cristiano Sebastiani of the leading European Institution Trade Union, Renouveau & Démocratie, representing thousands of staff employed in the European offices, wrote a letter to Mr Johannes Hahn, Commissioner in charge of Budget and Human Resources, regarding the thermal imaging systems used by the European Commission and the European Parliament, produced by the Chinese technology giant Hikvision.

The Hikvision cameras have been placed at entrances throughout the European Parliament and installed in the European Commission’s main offices, the Berlaymont and Charlemagne buildings.

The Chinese company Hikvision has been accused of being linked to the oppression of Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in East Turkestan, China’s Xinjiang province, including providing surveillance equipment used in the brutal “re-education camps”. The Chinese government holds a 40% controlling stake in Hikvision via the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group Corporation.

A leaked German Foreign Ministry report, estimates that 1 million Uyghur in China are being detained without trial. Ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim minority groups are also being imprisoned, the report said.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and Mr Cristiano Sebastiani called on Commissioner Johannes Hahn to provide clear answers and guarantees.

Mr Sebastiani’ letter comes after German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer, head of the European Parliament delegation to China, denounced that the use of Hikvision technology by the European institutions is “extremely worrying” since “Hikvision is a technology company which is deeply complicit in the terrible oppression of the Uighur people in Xinjiang which borders on genocide” and that the European institutions should “immediately create transparency and draw the adequate consequences: i.e. sever any direct or indirect business relationship with Hikvision.”

Also, Charlie Weimers, Swedish MEP from the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, said in turn that: “The EU should have no dealings whatsoever with a Chinese firm that is alleged to be involved in some of the most abhorrent human rights abuses in the world.” and that “Nobel Prize winners should adhere to a higher standard.”

Svenja Hahn, German MEP from the Renew Europe group addressed a letter to President Sassoli affirming that she found it “it outrageous that European tax payers’ money has been used to purchase monitoring equipment from a company that with their products enables mass surveillance, oppression of minorities and massive breaches of human rights”.

The use of Hikvision technology by the European institutions has provoked strong reactions from EU institutions staff as well and they have expressed their discontent at having to come face to face with a company accused of contributing to human rights violations in China.

Concerning the management of personal data, the spokesperson of the European Parliament confirmed that “the equipment is neither connected to the Parliament’s computer network nor records any data”.

The letter was copied to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission; David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament; Charles Michel, President of the Council of the European Union; Ilze Juhansone, Secretary-General of the European Commission; Gertrud Ingestad, Director-General, DG HR;  and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Svenja Hahn MEP, Reinhard Bütikofer MEP, Charlie Weimers; as well as to staff of the institutions.

Full version of Letter

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