The surveillance camera manufactured by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. installed on a post at a test station near the company’s headquarters in Hangzhou, China, on May 28, 2019.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty’s image

The British government on Thursday told its department to stop installing China-linked surveillance cameras in sensitive buildings, citing security risks.

The decision was taken after a review of “the possible current and future security risks associated with the installation of a visual surveillance system on government property,” cabinet office minister Oliver Dowden said in a written statement to parliament.

“The review has concluded that given the threat to the UK and the increasing capabilities and connectivity of these systems, additional controls are needed,” Dowden said.

The UK directive applies to cameras made by companies subject to Chinese security laws and includes guidance for departments to disconnect such devices from core computer networks and consider removing them altogether.

It comes months after dozens of lawmakers called for a ban on the sale and use of security cameras made by Hikvision and Dahua, two partially state-owned Chinese companies, over privacy fears and product concerns related to human rights abuses in China.

Hikvision in a statement to Reuters denied the claims, saying the company would make further efforts to liaise with UK authorities to understand the decision.

“Hikvision cannot transmit data from end users to third parties, we do not maintain end user databases, nor do we sell cloud storage in the UK,” a company spokesperson said.

Dahua’s UK office did not immediately respond to an email from Reuters seeking comment.

The United States has imposed trade and use restrictions for cameras made by Hikvision, Dahua, and other Chinese companies.

The majority of UK public agencies use surveillance cameras made by Hikvision or Dahua, privacy advocacy group Big Brother Watch said in July.

A number of government departments including the home and business ministries installed Hikvision cameras that were seen in use in front of their buildings, the group said.

Dowden’s statement said that following the government’s review: “Therefore, the department has been instructed to stop the deployment of the equipment to sensitive locations, where the equipment was manufactured by companies subject to the People’s Republic of China’s National Intelligence Act.”

“Because security considerations always come first around this site, we are taking action now to prevent any security risks from occurring.”