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After UK and USA, Australia to remove Chinese cameras from government property

China tops in surveillance across the world (Photo: IANS)

Australia has decided to remove Chinese-made surveillance cameras made by Chinese Communist Party-linked companies from defence sites and official buildings.

Australia’s move stems from security fears after an audit found surveillance equipment built by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua which are partly owned by the Communist Party of China (CPC). An audit of Australian government properties found Chinese cameras and security equipment installed in more than 200 buildings including offices related to foreign affairs, trade and one related to the defence department.

The UK and the USA had done a similar exercise in November last year banning telecommunications and video equipment made by several Chinese firms.

The Australian government’s move comes exactly at a time when a Chinese spy balloon was shot down and retrieved by the US Air Force on spying charges last week. A day later another Chinese balloon was found traversing the skies over South America.

Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said on Thursday that the government will remove the cameras from any defence locations to make them “completely secure”. The minister told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “There is an issue here and we’re going to deal with it”.

Besides the cameras, the security systems also include intercoms, electronic entry systems and video recorders made by the two Chinese companies.

The BBC reports that the security audit of government buildings was requested by Shadow Minister for Cyber Security, James Paterson.

He emphasised that Australia should not be supporting Hikvision and Dahua for “moral” reasons as both companies have been implicated in human rights abuses and mass surveillance of the Uyghurs people in Xinjiang.

On the other hand, Hikvision says it is “categorically false” to represent them as a threat to national security. The company adds that it cannot access end users’ video data and, therefore, cannot transmit it to third parties.

However, Paterson says that Australia has no way of knowing if sensitive information – photos and audio – have been secretly sent back to China, adding that the spread of Chinese surveillance devices is a serious issue of national security.

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