On May 11, a contract awarded to China’s state-owned Hikvision for the installation of security and surveillance cameras across the capital city of Delhi became the subject of public scrutiny. Hikvision has courted controversy in other markets for raising national and cyber security risks on account of the possible flow of data from their cameras back to China as well as other concerns associated with making the cameras of a foreign, state-owned company so omnipresent in critical infrastructure and government facilities. The Chinese company, in which the Chinese government maintains a 42% stake, already plays an integral part of the Chinese Communist Party’s domestic surveillance networks.
Hikvision reportedly won a January 2018 bid to place 150,000 CCTV cameras across the city. Although there is some political context for the allegations being made in this instance, the story is worth noting as another example of the risk factors involved in permitting China’s state-owned companies privileged access to internal systems. In this case, Congress Delhi Chief Ajay Maken, alleged that “[Aam Aadmi Party] leaders and Delhi government ministers wilfully flouted norms… and compromised national security” in awarding the contract to the Chinese company. Maken also took issue with how Hikvision became included on a list of acceptable vendors maintained by Indian defense contractor, Bharat Electronics, among other accusations.
Whether anything comes of the doubts regarding Hikvision remains to be seen, but it seems likely the company will face more of this same kind of scrutiny that has also been attracted by companies, such as Huawei and ZTE. Indeed, the Nikkei Asian Review has reported on Hikvision’s proactive attempts to disassociate themselves from these specific entities. The reality, however, is that this company has experienced significant growth and success in recent years, with their cameras installed in a range of similar circumstances around the globe to that being highlighted in this case. Their operations in the UK, for example, came under earlier scrutiny as well.