US Trade Show to Promote Controversial Chinese Companies

This report analyzes more than 800 companies exhibiting at the ISC West trade show and uncovers the controversial Chinese companies due to be in attendance.
Samuel Woodhams

Key Companies

  • Hikvision and Dahua Technology, both of which are on the US Bureau of Industry and Security’s ‘Entity List’
  • Two official partners of Huawei: Quectel and Fanvil
  • 10 video surveillance companies, including several facial recognition manufacturers

Introduction

On March 17-20, Reed Exhibitions will host its annual International Security Conference & Exposition (ISC) West event in Las Vegas.

The event is marketed as “the largest converged security trade show in the U.S.” and plays host to around 1,000 companies from around the world.

According to Reed Exhibitions, the event attracts 30,000 security professionals looking to procure the latest in “everything from access control to unmanned vehicles.”

We analysed all of the companies that will be at this year’s event and discovered 85 Chinese companies due to be exhibiting. However, following an updated notice on the ongoing US-China travel restrictions, this number fell to 18.

According to a report by IPVM, the China pavilion was cancelled in mid-February amid concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

Despite this, several Chinese companies will still be attending.

Hikvision and Dahua Technology, which were recently placed on the US Industry and Security Bureau ‘Entity List’ due to their alleged activity in Xinjiang, northwestern China, are still scheduled to be exhibiting.

Uniview, who are also alleged to have have been active in the region, are also due to be promoting their surveillance products at the event.

Although Huawei isn’t due to exhibit, several companies with official partnerships with the company are expected to be in attendance.

Despite the Trump administration’s attempts to decouple the American and Chinese technology sectors, the sustained presence of Chinese companies at this year’s event points to continued cooperation and trade between the two.

It also suggests that Chinese companies with problematic human rights records will continue to play a substantial role in various US supply chains and will maintain their presence across much of America.

Activity in Xinjiang

Hikvision USA and Dahua Technology USA are due to be marketing their products at ISC West, according to the event’s interactive floor plan.

They are both American subsidiaries of Chinese companies that are currently on the US Bureau of Industry and Security’s ‘Entity List.’

US companies are unable to trade with companies on the list unless they have a government license.

Think Force, which received significant amounts of funding from Yitu Technologies, was also scheduled to be in attendance. Yitu was placed on the ‘Entity List’ with Hikvision and Dahua in October 2019.

Think Force no longer appear on the floor plan, however, which suggests that they aren’t expected to be exhibiting due to the travel restrictions.

Dahua Technology USA

Dahua Technology USA Inc. is the American subsidiary of Zhejiang Dahua Technology, a video surveillance company with headquarters in Hangzhou, China.

According to the ISC’s floor plan, the company will have one of the largest stands available.

The company reportedly has distribution partners in over 180 countries and, in 2017, its total sales amounted to $2.89 billion.

A press release, which is available on the event’s website, suggests the company will be promoting new Internet of Things (IoT) devices, including a “Wi-Fi enabled video doorbell, floodlight camera, and mini camera.”

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s 2018 report to congress previously warned US politicians of the dangers of allowing Chinese companies to enter the US IoT market.

“Through IoT products and services, Chinese firms may be transferring data from their U.S. consumers to China, where the government retains expansive powers to collect and exploit data with little regard for privacy or ownership concerns,” the report said.

Dahua’s parent company was placed on the Bureau of Industry & Security’s ‘Entity List‘ on October 9, 2019, after it was “determined by the U.S. Government to be acting contrary to the foreign policy interests of the United States.”

“Specifically, these entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups” in the Xinjiang region, according to the Bureau.

A report by IPVM, found that Dahua Technology and Hikvision – who will also be exhibiting at ISC West – received over $1 billion worth of government contracts in Xinjiang.

A statement from Dahua argued that the US’s decision lacked “any factual basis” and argued that the company “adheres to the business code of conduct, and follows market rules as well as international rules.”

However, the widespread crackdown in the region, coupled with a huge increase in surveillance capabilities, has led many to suggest that new technologies have been critical in abetting human rights violations.

“China’s goal is to use these technologies to suppress dissent, and to predict and snuff out any challenge to the ruling Communist Party’s grip on power. In Xinjiang, surveillance is part of a policy of cultural genocide” Washington Post.

A recent estimated suggested that the number of Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim minority groups forcibly detained in the region could be as high as 1.5 million.

Hikvision USA

According to the company’s listing on the event’s website, Hikvision is the “world’s leading provider of security products and solutions.”

Hikvision USA has offices in California, while its parent company, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. Ltd, is headquartered in Hangzhou, China.

The company will be showcasing a new camera at the event which reportedly has “thermal imaging-based fire detection, temperature monitoring, [and] cigarette smoking detection” capabilities.

Hikvision was placed on the ‘Entity List’ with Dahua and several other leading Chinese surveillance companies, including Megvii, SenseTime and Yitu Technologies.

However, other than Hikvision and Dahua, none of the other companies are expected to be at ISC West.

In 2018, the Financial Times reported that Hikvision had sold local authorities nearly 1,000 facial recognition cameras to be placed at mosques across Xinjiang.

IPVM also found that the company had been openly marketing AI enabled cameras that were allegedly capable of automatically identifying Uyghurs.

On Hikvision’s ‘Safe City’ brochure, the company promotes its facial recognition technology which apparently “optimizes facial recognition algorithms for different countries and regions to achieve higher accuracy rate.”

Hikvision has denied any wrongdoing, telling the The Global Times: “We have never and would never conduct business operations that are based on the condition of violating human rights.”

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commissions’s 2019 report to congress recently warned of the threats posed by Chinese biometric surveillance companies.

“Facial recognition, voice recognition, and other biometric data analysis are key enabling technologies within China’s surveillance state, and in the future the PLA may leverage big data and AI to enhance propaganda and psychological operations” US-China Economic and Security Review Commission

Marion Smith, writing about Hikvision and Dahua in the Washington Post, has said: “Most Americans would not willingly support companies that enabled such oppression.”

The company was also scheduled to be at the UK Home Office’s Security & Policing event, scheduled for 3-5 March, but mysteriously disappeared from the website when the event began.

Uniview Technologies

Uniview is “the pioneer and leader of IP video surveillance,” according to its website.

It has headquarters in Hangzhou, China, and has reportedly sold its technology in 145 countries.

According to the company’s “Success Cases” they have sold surveillance equipment to private business in Oman, Kenya, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE, as well as local authorities in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, as part of the city’s Safe City project.

Uniview have also been implicated in the rise of surveillance in Xinjiang, China.

In an interview in 2017, Ximen Yan, the company’s vice president, was asked what the company’s largest application in China was. He responded: “Probably an IP-based public security solution in Xinjiang Province.”

In a story in the Financial Times from November 2019, a local policing expert and party cadre from the public security bureau in Xinjiang also said that Uniview were active in the region.

The company, which was once owned by Bain Capital — a private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney — is now part-owned by Alibaba, the Chinese tech giant, and China Transinfo.

The company is not currently on the ‘Entity List’ and US companies currently face no limitations in trading with the company.

Links to Huawei

After analysing more than 800 companies due to exhibit at this year’s ISC West event, we discovered 6 companies and organisations with links to Huawei.

These include:

  • Quectel Wireless Solutions Co., Ltd.
  • Zhuhai Raysharp Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Union Optech Co., Ltd.
  • Shenzhen Domenor Technology LLC
  • CCCME
  • Fanvil Technology Co., Ltd

However, following the updated travel restrictions, only two companies are now expected to be in attendance: Quectel and Fanvil.

Quectel Wireless Solutions Co., Ltd

According to the company’s listing on the ISC website, Quectel Wireless Solutions is “a leading global supplier of Internet of Things (IoT) modules.”

It has headquarters in Shanghai and, on the company’s website, it also promotes its 5G mobile network technology.

Debates surrounding the security implications of allowing Chinese companies to be involved in the construction of US 5G network infrastructure have been prominent in the US in recent months.

US officials have been active in lobbying foreign governments to deny Huawei, in particular, access to 5G infastructural projects.

In a letter to British MPs, a cross-party group of US Senators stressed the “significant security, privacy, and economic threats” of allowing Huawei to be involved in the country’s 5G mobile network, according to an article by the Financial Times.

Quectel not only develops 5G technologies, it is also an official partner of Huawei.

In 2017, Quectel partnered with Huawei in the IoT field. According to a press release on Quectel’s website, the company is Huawei’s only partner in the “NB-IoT pre-commercial stage.”

More recently, in February 2020, Huawei partnered with Quectel and several other companies to “launch 5G industrial modules” that would help accelerate “the adoption of 5G in various scenarios.”

Quectel, Huawei and ZTE are also all members of 5GAA, a group of companies “working together to develop end-to-end solutions for future mobility and transportation services.” Airbus, IBM, Apple and BMW are also members of the group.

On a blog post, the Quectel’s Regional Sales Director for Turkey and the Middle East is quoted saying: “At Quectel, we are overwhelmingly excited to be part of this revolution by offering communication cores thanks to our richest product portfolio in the cellular connectivity market, from 2G and NB-IoT all the way to 5G and beyond.”

However, for many, allowing Chinese companies to be part of the US 5G infrastructure could have significant ramifications for privacy and digital security.

“The future of 5G’s ownership and implementation will dictate the privacy and online security of my mobile-focused, tech-obsessed generation.” Charlie Kirk, The Hill

Fanvil Technology

Fanvil has headquarters in Shenzhen and is a “leading supplier of SIP endpoints and communication solutions,” according to the company’s listing on the ISC website.

The company markets a wide range of IP communication devices on its website and lists Huawei as one of its technology partners. Other partners include ZTE, NEC, Mitel and Sennheiser.

In 2014, Huawei and Fanvil announced a new partnership that “guarantees full interoperability between Fanvil IP phones and Huawei services.”

Although the manufacturing of VoIP phones may seem innocuous, these devices can still be vulnerable. According to a report in Forbes, “The humble office desk phone has become the latest device to fall foul of security research into vulnerabilities that open the risk of espionage and cyberattack.”

Fanvil has not faced any accusations that it’s technology has been breached in the past.

Video Surveillance Technologies

Of the 18 Chinese companies due to be exhibiting at next month’s event, there are at least 10 that manufacture video surveillance products.

From Streamax Technology, which produces surveillance products for vehicles, to Akuvox, which creates smart video door phones, there will be no dearth of Chinese-made surveillance technology on offer.

As well as these relatively innocuous technologies, this report also uncovers two additional facial recognition manufacturers due to be attending the event.

Companies include:

  • Shenzhen TVT Digital Technology Co., Ltd.
  • Xiamen Leading Optics Co., Ltd.

Other companies already covered in this report – including Hikvision, Dahua and Uniview – are also active in the facial recognition sector.

The rise of facial recognition technology has resulted in several leading advocacy groups to call for a ban on the technology due to concerns over its inaccuracies, biases, impact on privacy and security considerations.

“We are on the verge of an unprecedented increase in state and private spying that will be built in plain sight.” Fight for the Future

In response, several cities, including San Francisco, have already banned facial recognition technology.

Shenzhen TVT Digital Technology Co., Ltd.

TVT was established in 2014 and is headquartered in Shenzhen, according to the company’s website.

It has reportedly sold its technology, which includes IP cameras, PTZ cameras and facial recognition cameras, to 120 countries and areas.

According to a recent press release, TVT’s facial recognition cameras are capable of “side face recognition, detecting 10 faces simultaneously, 3-4 faces per second and a database hosting up to 10,000 faces.”

On the company’s website, it promotes its “Safe School Solution” which offers a comprehensive security system, including video surveillance capabilities.

In an op-ed for MTV, Evan Greer and Evan Selinger recently argued against the use of greater surveillance on campuses, writing that “the mere prospect of widespread facial surveillance will have a chilling effect on campus expression.”

“Facial recognition systems make campuses less safe, a lesson high schools are learning the hard way.” MTV

Xiamen Leading Optics Co., Ltd.

Xiamen Leading Optics is an “innovative designer and manufacturer of camera lenses,” according to the company’s listing on the event’s website.

It has headquarters in Xiamen and, according to the company’s website, it is “certified by Xiamen government.” It also has branches in the US, Germany and Taiwan.

It manufactures a wide range of surveillance lenses and has “successfully developed over 1500 optical solutions, and 67 different patented technologies across multiple fields of application.”

It also promotes its ‘Scanning Recognition’ products which can be used “biological recognition” and 3D scanning.

The presence of Xiamen Leading Optical highlights the multiple companies required in the creation of sophisticated facial recognition systems – from the construction of the lenses, to the development of algorithms.

Importantly, at each point in the supply chain, new vulnerabilities and threats can occur.

Conclusion

This report has uncovered the widespread presence of Chinese companies due to be exhibiting at next month’s ISC West event.

It is also significant to note that, were it not for the spread of COVID-19, the number of companies from China due to attend would be substantially higher.

Despite attempts to decouple the American and China’s technology sectors, this report’s findings suggests that many US and Chinese companies continue to see the value in trading with one another.

It also suggests that in spite of attempts from the US Bureau on Security & Industry, several of the companies on the ‘Entity List’ may attempt to continue to trade with American businesses via their American subsidiaries.

Given that, companies with problematic human rights records may continue to prosper in America and could continue to play an important part in the growing American surveillance apparatus.

Supporting documents

View the websites of the companies mentioned in this report and the relevant URLs from the event’s website by accessing this Google Sheet.

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