Cisco, HP Poised to Help China Keep an Eye on Its Citizens

As Microsoft draws fire for agreeing to censor search results in its new collaboration with Baidu, The Wall Street Journal reveals the roles of technology firms including Cisco and HP in a new surveillance system in Chongqing. Their involvement sidesteps US export restrictions on crime-control products introduced following the suppression of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations in 1989.

The system, being built in the city of Chongqing over the next two to three years, is among the largest and most sophisticated video-surveillance projects of its kind in China, and perhaps the world. Dubbed “Peaceful Chongqing,” it is planned to cover a half-million intersections, neighborhoods and parks over nearly 400 square miles, an area more than 25% larger than New York City ….

Asked about concerns about political use of the system, Todd Bradley, an executive vice president who oversees H-P’s China strategy, said in an interview last week in China, “We take them at their word as to the usage.” He added, “It’s not my job to really understand what they’re going to use it for. Our job is to respond to the bid that they’ve made.” […]

Corinna-Barbara Francis, a researcher at Amnesty International, said surveillance footage has been used to identify and apprehend peaceful protesters in China, including in Xinjiang and Tibet. “In China there’s ample evidence that they use” video surveillance “to crack down and then criminalize activity which should not be criminalized,” Ms. Francis said ….

Chongqing’s government says on its website that its current surveillance system is outdated, allowing police to directly tap into just 15,000 of the total 300,000 cameras. It wants the new system to be among the world’s most advanced.