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US to reportedly blacklist Chinese surveillance camera giant Hikvision

The Trump administration is considering slapping a US export ban on China's Hikvision, one of the world's largest surveillance companies, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter.

The US Commerce Department may require US companies to obtain government approval to sell components to the Chinese surveillance firm, which would limit Hikvision's ability to access key technology for its business, the report said.

Hangzhou-based Hikvision was the world's largest surveillance camera maker between 2011 and 2017, owning 38% in market share globally in 2017, according to a research report by IHS Markit published in July 2018. 

The export ban on Hikvision would be the same as the one applied to Huawei, which has been included in the US government's Security Entity List. Foreign companies included in the list are required to get approval from the US government before that can do business with US companies.

See: Huawei says Trump's ban will hurt US 5G deployment (CNET)

The US government has issued an alert warning that Chinese-made drones may be sending sensitive flight data to their manufacturers in China. Shenzhen-based DJI, the world's largest commercial drone maker which owns more than a half of global market share, is believed to be a major target in the latest warning.

In response to the New York Times report, Hikvision posted a statement on Baidu, saying that it expects to be treated fairly as it has not breached any of the regulations that are imposed on commercial companies.

"The company has taken the initiative to hire US professionals to conduct an independent review of the company's business, and professionals will respond to the concerns of overseas stakeholders after obtaining sufficient evidence," Hikvision said, whose shares slumped following the report.

China opposes the abuse of state power by the United States and its moves to discredit and suppress the practices of Chinese enterprises, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said, responding to the Hikvision ban.

Hikvision also told local Chinese media that the US ban would not have a major impact to its business as the company purchases equipment not only from the US, but also from Southeast Asia and other countries. In the event that the US cuts off the company's chip supply, Hikvision added it would be able to supplement its chip needs through other commercial means. 

See: China's cybersecurity law update lets state agencies 'pen-test' local companies

China has reportedly equipped about 200 million surveillance cameras around the nation, amounting to approximately 1 camera per 7 citizens. Surveillance cameras in China are mostly used for security and traffic control purposes, as well as for catching criminals through AI technologies. 

In February, it was revealed that a facial recognition database containing information on about 2.6 million users owned by Shenzhen-based SenseNets had been left open on the internet for months. The facial recognition database had been utilised by the Chinese government to track the Uyghur Muslim population in the Xinjiang region via surveillance cameras.

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