VVD inquires about Chinese security cameras

The VVD wants clarification from the cabinet about the use of Chinese security cameras in the Netherlands. The parliamentary group wants an answer to the question of how many cameras Hikvision and Dahua have in our country, and whether this is also the case in government buildings. The liberals also want to know whether the Chinese government can watch live via the cameras or not.

This is apparent from written questions from Queeny Rajkowski, Ruben Brekelmans and Ingrid Michon-Derkzen (all VVD). They addressed their questions to the Minister of Justice and Security Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wopke Hoekstra.

Dozens of municipalities have security cameras from controversial Chinese companies

The reason for the written questions is an investigation by the NOS into the use of Chinese security cameras in public spaces. It emerged that at least 51 Dutch municipalities have cameras from Hikvision or Dahua installed within the municipal boundaries. Not only in public places, but also in sensitive locations such as the front door of a ministry or embassy.

There is a fear that the manufacturers or the Chinese government can watch through the cameras. They then know exactly which dignitaries went where and when. “It is interesting for a foreign intelligence service to see who is walking in there,” sinologist Ardi Bouwers told the news channel.

Because in theory very sensitive information can be collected in this way, the cameras of Hikvision and Dahua are banned in several countries. The General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) has warned more than once about digital espionage by China in recent years. According to the AIVD, the country has an ‘offensive cyber program’ and poses a ‘threat to Dutch security’.

Is China watching, yes or no?

The report was a reason for the VVD to put written questions to Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius and Hoekstra. Rajkowski, Brekelmans, and Michon-Derkzen ask the ministers whether it is true that Hikvision or Dahua cameras are installed in Dutch government buildings, and if so how many and when they were purchased. The MPs refer to a report that the police purchased almost 700 cameras from Dahua last year. “Were the police already aware of the security risks when purchasing these cameras?” the MPs wonder aloud.

The parliamentarians want to know from the ministers which safety requirements security cameras at government buildings must meet, and whether the cameras from Hikvision and Dahua meet these. “Was it already known at the time of purchase that China could possibly build a back door in a Hikvision or Dahua camera system? If so, what measures have been taken against this?”, ask the MPs.

“Is it technically possible for China to watch, live or afterward?”, the VVD wants to know. The ministers must indicate whether it is possible to close this back door using the software. The ministers are also asked how great they consider the chance that China is watching with the cameras. The faction wonders why the Netherlands has not chosen to ban Hikvision or Dahua cameras from government buildings.

Conversation about privacy and security standards in technology

The VVD thinks it wise to ban security cameras from manufacturers from countries that conduct an offensive cyber programs against the Netherlands. The MPs want to know what the cabinet thinks about this. At the same time, they ask whether there are European alternatives on the market and whether it would be better to hang them instead of the cameras of the controversial Chinese companies. “Do you agree that we should take the cyber threat from China seriously and therefore take a critical look at the purchase and use of non-European hardware and software for sensitive matters such as filming government buildings?”

The VVD also wants to know whether the cabinet can guarantee that the cameras do not pose a threat to the Uyghur diaspora in the Netherlands. Finally, the House of Representatives would like to know whether the ministers are prepared to enter into discussions with China about the importance of privacy and security standards in technology and whether access by the Chinese government to this sensitive data is unacceptable.

Update: Hind Dekker-Abdulaziz and Lisa van Ginneken (both D66) have also asked the cabinet questions about the use of Chinese surveillance cameras by the Dutch government and police. The MPs ask whether Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius and Minister Hanke Bruins Slot (Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations) can elaborate on the possible security risks of the cameras of Hikvision and Dahua. They want an update on the risks we currently face regarding Chinese influence within Dutch government systems.

D66 wants to know about the government’s willingness to conduct research into surveillance equipment from Chinese tech companies. With this, the party hopes that the government will no longer hang surveillance cameras from controversial companies in sensitive places in the future. Furthermore, the ministers must answer the question of what they think about the fact that the Chinese government uses cameras from Hikvision and Dahua to repress Uyghurs and other minority groups.

Finally, the government’s social liberals want to know what measures it is taking to prevent espionage by Chinese companies at Dutch government services and the police.

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