UK to ban China-made surveillance equipment from government departments
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The government has said it will remove surveillance equipment made in China as part of efforts to strengthen the UK’s national security.
Last year, government departments were told to stop installing cameras made in China in sensitive buildings. It has now announced plans to strengthen the Procurement Bill, which lays out the rules that central government departments use when selecting suppliers.
This includes establishing a National Security Unit for Procurement which will investigate suppliers who may pose a risk to national security, and assess whether companies should be barred from public procurements.
The Cabinet Office said it would publish a timeline for the removal of surveillance equipment produced by companies subject to China’s National Intelligence Law from sensitive central government sites.
In the last year, it halted the installation of such equipment on sensitive government sites and asked departments to consider their removal.
“By publicly committing to this timeline, we are providing reassurance and urgency around the removal plans,” it said
In 2020, a decision was made to remove all technology made by Chinese firm Huawei from Britain’s 5G networks by the end of 2027 due to similar concerns.
The US government had recently accused Huawei – the world’s largest telecommunications equipment company – of being a national security threat, which could be used as an earpiece by the Chinese government. Following this, the National Cyber Security Centre said that the security of 5G networks could not be guaranteed should it use equipment made by the firm.
The decision was not taken lightly, with the likes of Vodafone and BT warning that they would require a minimum of five years to remove Huawei equipment from their telecommunications networks, in order to prevent serious disruption to users.
The revamped Procurement Bill will also introduce new powers to ban certain suppliers from specific sectors. This will lead to a precautionary approach being taken towards suppliers which may pose a risk to sensitive areas of government such as GCHQ.
Lawmakers have previously 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 and concerns of the companies’ products being linked to human rights abuses in China.
“We believe that the possible action by the UK government is a further step up of the mounting geopolitical tensions being expressed through technology bans, which by no means relates to the security of Hikvision’s products,” Hikvision said in a statement via email.
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