Beijing The US government is apparently planning to impose the toughest sanctions to date on a large Chinese company. According to this, the US Treasury Department could put Hikvision, the world’s largest manufacturer of surveillance devices and facial recognition software, as the first Chinese technology group on the list of “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons”. This was reported by several media outlets with reference to government sources. This would criminalize any cooperation with the company.
The scale of the sanctions would thus surpass the most prominent case of the Chinese IT equipment manufacturer Huawei to date. Since 2019, at the behest of the US administration, the latter has been denied access to US technologies, in particular high-tech semiconductors. As a result, Huawei was forced to part with a large part of the business unit with the highest sales and profits with smartphones to date. The company is still struggling to survive due to the consequences of the US sanctions, according to its own statements.
In the Hikvision case, a final decision has not yet been made, reports the Bloomberg news agency. However, the US government has begun to inform allies of its intentions, as possible sanctions affect more than 180 countries where the company’s cameras are used, writes the “Financial Times”. The shares of the Chinese group fell by more than ten percent on Wednesday.
Washington accuses the Hangzhou-based company of supplying the Chinese government with surveillance cameras that facilitate the repression of the Uighur Muslim minority in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, thereby contributing to human rights violations.
The US accuses China of “genocide” in Xinjiang. China has always denied oppressing the Uighur Muslim minority. U.S. security officials also fear that China could use Hikvision’s cameras for espionage activities around the world.
Hikvision is not allowed to acquire US technology since 2020
The company’s cameras and surveillance software are used by authorities and companies worldwide, for example to fight crime or for “smart city” applications. Because the devices are powerful and yet inexpensive, the manufacturer’s sales recently also grew rapidly internationally. The company is considered a pioneer in the field of facial recognition through artificial intelligence.
In a statement from Hikvision on the first report of the “Financial Times”, the company pointed out that there is still no decision on possible sanctions. We hope for a “fair and unbiased” treatment. Sanctions should be “based on credible evidence and due process”.
Hikvision has been on the so-called “Entity List” of the US Department of Commerce since 2020. This means that suppliers are not allowed to sell US technology to the company. Last year, the Biden administration also placed the company on the list of companies of the “Chinese military-industrial complex”.
Since then, US investors are no longer allowed to invest in the company. Inclusion on the list of “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons” would be another blow to the company, because its customers are at risk of violating US sanctions.