Newly disclosed reports on Monday revealed that a Chinese surveillance corporation owned by the state, which supplies technology utilized in the mass surveillance and detention of Uyghur Muslims in the communist nation, is participating in a United Nations (U.N.) “sustainability initiative” focused on addressing climate change and instances of “human rights violations.”
Hikvision, which is on a United States trade blacklist due to its involvement in the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang that is sanctioned by the Chinese government, has declared its membership in the U.N. Global Compact through a statement released on Tuesday. The initiative includes numerous businesses who are committed to endorsing “U.N. objectives” and enforcing “universal sustainability principles” related to “human rights, labor, the environment, and anti-corruption.”
Hikvision highlighted that its admission into the compact reflects the company’s unwavering dedication to implementing its interpretation of ‘Tech for Good.’ Hikvision has vowed to ensure that it does not play a role in human rights violations.
The essential components of the surveillance network used by the Chinese Communist Party to monitor and arrest Uyghur individuals in Xinjiang include the cameras produced by the company. Hikvision, under the supervision of the Chinese government through its main shareholder, the state-owned China Electronics Technology Group, has entered into government agreements in Xinjiang that specifically reference the surveillance of “Uyghurs” and “mosques.” Their technology has been instrumental in identifying and arresting Uyghurs marked for international travel, and their cameras are embedded into the mass detention facilities operated by the CCP in Xinjiang.
In 2019, Hikvision promoted a camera capable of autonomously recognizing Uyghur individuals.
Hikvision was recently included in the U.N. Global Compact two weeks ago. The Global Compact’s official website highlights Hikvision as a participant in “electronic & electrical equipment,” with the company’s accession dated January 29, 2024. Hikvision has committed to providing an update on its progress in “sustainability” by July and in a formal “letter of commitment” addressed to the U.N., has pledged adherence to the compact’s “Ten Principles.”
These principles encompass human rights, labor standards, environmental stewardship, and anti-corruption efforts. The principles highlight the promise of members to ensure they do not enable human rights violations and actively endorse and uphold internationally recognized human rights standards.
Besides Hikvision, Dahua Technology is also listed as a member of the U.N. Global Compact. Like Hikvision, Dahua is a Chinese firm specializing in video surveillance, partially owned by the Chinese government. It has promoted facial recognition technology capable of alerting users upon detecting a Uyghur individual and supplies equipment to authorities in Xinjiang. In 2022, the Federal Communications Commission prohibited Hikvision and Dahua from vending their products in the United States.
In May 2021, President Joe Biden issued a directive instructing his Department of Defense (DOD), General Services Administration (GSA), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to mandate significant federal contractors to reveal their carbon emissions and establish reduction objectives grounded in scientific principles.
In November of 2022, government agencies put forth a regulation suggesting that corporations awarded federal contracts exceeding $50 million must establish objectives for cutting emissions. These objectives would undergo scrutiny and endorsement by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), an organization headquartered in London dedicated to assisting companies in defining climate-related objectives. The SBTi was established in 2015 with support from the U.N. Global Compact, which continues to play a role in its management.
Republican lawmakers raised concerns about the plan during a December 2023 hearing, arguing that the federal government cannot provide strong oversight into SBTi.