Monday, January 17, 2022

3 US Retailers Remove Chinese Surveillance Technology From Shelves

In a new move, three major U.S. retailers have started discarding Chinese surveillance technology products made by Chinese origin brands. Best Buy, Home Depot, and Lowe’s have announced that they will stop selling surveillance technology-related items made by Chinese companies.

The three U.S. retail giants have said they will stop selling surveillance gadgets and products made by Chinese entities like Lorex and Ezviz. The retailers added their decision was based upon the discovery that these brands manufacture products that are being used in China for human rights abuse. Both Ezviz and Lorex make home security systems, including products like smart home accessories and CCTV cameras. Lorex is run by Dahua Technology while Ezviz is owned by Hikvision.

The move is not exactly unexpected given the fact the U.S. government had blacklisted several Chinese surveillance technology companies in 2019 and both Hikvision and Dahua were included in the list. It was done after top human rights watchdogs said the companies were making products used for abusing the Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region in China. China has refuted the claim vehemently all along. Both Dahua and Hikvision allegedly supply surveillance equipment for spying on the ethnic minorities, including the Uyghur population. Hikvision is also close to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 

Both Ezviz and Lorex make home security systems, including products like smart home accessories and CCTV cameras. (Image: via Amazon)

U.S. political leaders have slammed these Chinese entities for their active support in the abuse of the ethnic minority groups in the country. Senator Tom Cotton said in 2019 that Hikvision and Dahua were nothing but puppets controlled by the CCP. A ban was introduced on importing these products to the U.S. but that was meant for federal government usage only.

Home Depot, Best Buy, and Lowe’s have removed Chinese surveillance technology from their stores

Lorex and Ezviz are yet to respond to the newest development. Home Depot and Best Buy have been vocal on the topic and they have given statements regarding their move to discard the Chinese products. Lowe’s has not made any statement, but it has removed the Chinese products from its shelves. 

Chinese human rights researcher Maya Wang said that Lorex surveillance devices were developed to track down and identify the Muslim population in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. Its owner Dahua developed a face recognition system tailor-made to identify the Uyghur population. 

Chinese surveillance technology companies are accused of crimes against humanity in China's Uyghur crackdown.
China has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and possibly genocide against the Uyghur population and other mostly-Muslim ethnic groups in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. (Image: William Ho via Dreamstime)

While the Trump administration was very vocal on China’s handling of the ethnic minority groups, the administration of the incumbent President Joe Biden is not pleased with China’s stance on the issue either. The Biden administration has termed the human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang a large-scale, planned genocide. It has also slammed the Chinese video surveillance makers for being complicit in such inhuman activities.

The United Nations watchdogs think the Chinese authorities have kept about a million Uighurs in detention camps for a long time. The move by three U.S. retailers is likely to be hailed by the govt and human rights groups. The move has got support from World Uyghur Congress President Dolkun Isa who said the move was meaningful. 

While the three U.S. retail majors are removing the Chinese surveillance technology products from their outlets and websites, a few are yet to follow suit. Walmart and Costco are still selling Chinese surveillance technology products made by those two Chinese entities, as is Amazon.

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Max Lu
Max Lu is an author who specializes in Asian geopolitics.

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