US retailers stop selling security cameras made by some Chinese companies

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Originally published by Engadget on 26 October, 2021

Home Depot and Best Buy have pulled the products of Chinese tech surveillance makers linked to human rights abuses from their shelves, according to TechCrunch. Both US retail giants have stopped selling products from Lorex and Ezviz, while Lowe’s no longer carries products by the former. Lorex is a subsidiary of Dahua Technology, whereas Ezviz is a surveillance tech brand owned by Hikvision. As TechCrunch explains, the US government added Dahua and Hikvision to its economic blacklist in 2019 for their role in the mass surveillance of Uighur Muslims in the province of Xinjiang.   

Earlier this year, Los Angeles Times published a report detailing how the facial recognition software developed by Lorex owner Dahua was being shopped to law enforcement as a way to identify Uyghurs. A user guide for the service apparently touts its capability to identify people passing in front of its cameras by race. Meanwhile, Hikvision’s cameras have been installed at mosques and detention camps in Xinjiang, according to a 2019 New York Times report. Maya Wang, a China researcher for Human Rights Watch, told the publication back then: “These systems are designed for a very explicit purpose — to target Muslims.”

In a report on the human rights practices in China, the US Department of State said that the Chinese government “conducted mass arbitrary detention of Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and members of other Muslim and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang. China Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) alleged these detentions amounted to enforced disappearance, since families were often not provided information about the length or location of the detention.” Human rights groups believe over a million Uyghurs are being detained in internment camps, but China continues to deny the allegations. 

It’s unclear why the retail giants have decided to pull Lorex and Ezviz products now, but consumers have freely been able to buy their security cameras over the past couple of years after their parent companies were placed in the US economic blacklist. Home Depot told TechCrunch that it’s “committed to upholding the highest standards of ethical sourcing and [it] immediately stopped selling products from Lorex when this was brought to [the company’s] attention.” Best Buy simply told the publication that it was “discontinuing its relationship” with both Lorex and Ezviz.

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