SYDNEY (AFP): Australia will strip Chinese-made security cameras from some government buildings to ensure they are “completely secure”, the country’s defence minister said Thursday.
It follows similar moves in the United States and Britain, which have both taken measures to stop government departments from installing Chinese-made cameras at sensitive sites.
Britain acted in November last year due to fears that Chinese companies could be forced to share intelligence with Beijing’s security services.
The security cameras were installed at more than 200 Australian government buildings — according to official figures compiled by an opposition politician — including at least one run by the Department of Defence.
Australian Defence Minister Richard Marles said officials would find and remove all cameras found within the defence department’s vast collection of offices and facilities.
“It’s a significant thing that’s been brought to our attention and we’re going to fix it,” he told national broadcaster ABC.
“It’s important that we go through this exercise and make sure that our facilities are completely secure.”
The government-funded national War Memorial — a sprawling 14-hectare (35 acres) complex in Canberra — also confirmed it would remove a small number of Chinese-made cameras out of an “abundance of caution”.
The cameras were made by companies Hikvision and Dahua, which have both been blacklisted in the United States.
The US banned the importation of surveillance equipment made by Hikvision and Dahua in November last year because it posed “an unacceptable risk to national security”.
In Britain, a group of 67 MPs and lords called for the government to ban Hikvision and Dahua in July last year, following reports their equipment had been used to spy on Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
It was a Hikvision camera that caught former health secretary Matt Hancock kissing an aide in violation of Covid rules in June 2021, leading to his resignation.
Hikvision has previously said it was “categorically false” to paint the company as “a threat to national security”.
Australia’s centre-left government has been trying to repair its relationship with China since coming to power in May last year.
China slapped hefty tariffs on key Australian exports in 2020 at the height of a bitter dispute with the former conservative government.