UK’s House of Commons backs blocking Chinese cameras from govt sites

By Andrew MacAskill

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s lower house of parliament approved a new law on Wednesday that would ban Chinese surveillance technology from government buildings and military bases days after news of an alleged spying scandal in parliament.

The new law that sets government procurement rules comes at a time of anxiety about China after it was revealed at the weekend that a parliamentary researcher in Britain was arrested in March on suspicion of spying for China.

The House of Commons approved the legislation that would strip out substantial amounts of Chinese equipment from government sites. The legislation will go back to the House of Lords upper house of parliament for approval before it becomes law.

The news of the arrest of the parliamentary researcher, who denies being a spy, has led to calls by lawmakers for a tougher stance on China. The Chinese foreign ministry has called the spying claims “entirely groundless”.

British lawmakers have called for a ban on the sale and use of security cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua, two partly state-owned Chinese firms, over privacy fears.

At least one-third of police forces in England and Wales use surveillance cameras made by Hikvision, according to research by the government’s independent surveillance camera commissioner.

Sam Goodman, a London-based director of the China Strategic Risks Institute think tank, said the law is the “next step in making Hikvision and Dahua’s presence in this country history”.

Hikvision and Dahua did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hikvision has previously said it was “categorically false” to present the company as a national security threat, while Dahua said it has served British customers for six years in compliance with all laws.

The government has committed to updating parliament every year on how many cameras have been taken down so that lawmakers can track the progress.

(Reporting by Andrew MacAskill, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Nick Macfie)