A Chinese Dahua brand security camera is seen in Sydney, Australia on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. AP PHOTO

Australia’s defense department to remove China-made cameras

CANBERRA: Australia’s Defense Department will remove surveillance cameras made by Chinese Communist Party-linked companies from its buildings, the government said on Thursday after the United States and the United Kingdom made similar moves.

The Australian newspaper reported that at least 913 cameras, intercoms, electronic-entry systems and video recorders developed and manufactured by Chinese companies Hikvision and Dahua are in Australian government and agency offices, including the Defense and Foreign Affairs departments.

Hikvision and Dahua are partly owned by China’s Communist Party-ruled government.

China’s Embassy in Australia did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But Beijing’s general response to such moves is to defend their high tech companies as good corporate citizens that follow all local laws and play no part in government or party intelligence gathering.

The US government said last November it was banning telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from several prominent Chinese brands, including Hikvision and Dahua, in an effort to protect the nation’s communications network.

Security cameras made by Hikvision were also banned from British government buildings that month.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said his department was assessing all its surveillance technology.

“Where those particular cameras are found, they’re going to be removed,” Marles told Australian Broadcasting Corp. (ABC) “There is an issue here and we’re going to deal with it.”

An audit found that Hikvision and Dahua cameras and security equipment were found in almost every department, except the Agriculture Department and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Australian War Memorial and National Disability Insurance Agency have said they would also remove the Chinese cameras found at their sites, the ABC reported.

Opposition cybersecurity spokesman James Paterson said he had prompted the audit by asking questions over six months of each federal agency, after the Home Affairs Department was unable to say how many of the cameras, access control systems and intercoms were installed in government buildings.

“We urgently need a plan from the … government to rip every one of these devices out of Australian government departments and agencies,” Paterson said.

Both companies were subject to China’s National Intelligence Law, which requires them to cooperate with Chinese intelligence agencies, he said.

“We would have no way of knowing if the sensitive information, images and audio collected by these devices are secretly being sent back to China against the interests of Australian citizens,” Paterson said.

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