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Scottish Parliament Condemns China Surveillance in the UK, Demands Urgent Action by the Government

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

23 February 2023 – Today, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh held a debate regarding Chinese State Surveillance in the UK. This debate comes in the wake of the shooting down of a Chinese state surveillance balloon over the United States on 5th February 2023, and the increased awareness in the UK and across the globe that such tactics have been used repeatedly by China over the sovereign territory of many countries including the UK.

Six MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament) from four different political parties

contributed in the debate, including: Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP (Liberal Democrats), Jeremy Balfour MSP (Conservative Party), Martin Whitfield MSP (Labour), Daniel Johnson MSP (Labour), Audrey Nicoll MSP (SNP) and Elena Whitham MSP (SNP). Issues raised during the debate included the recent Chinese surveillance balloon in the United States, Hikvision cameras being used by local authorities in Scotland including in the Police force, examples of China surveillance against Hong Kongers who have settled in Scotland, and the illegal Chinese police stations in the UK, including one in Glasgow.

Alex Cole Hamilton MSP said: "China has projected its influence in an unprecedented fashion. We are reliant on China as a trading partner and supplier of technology. It is a fact that Chinese-national intelligence law requires every Chinese based company to cooperate with state intelligence services. This raises questions about potential intrusion and misuse of the data that Chinese companies collect through domestic technology that we readily deploy."

He continued: "Last year, research revealed that at least 11 local authorities across Scotland are using Hikvision cameras that are used in the detention centres holding Uyghurs in Xinjiang. It’s time that the Scottish Government advises local authorities and public bodies against using surveillance equipment that is manufactured by companies linked to the Chinese State."

Jeremy Balfour MSP raised the issue of harassment against people from Hong Kong who have settled in Scotland. He said: "The Safeguard Defenders report found that local Chinese residents are forced to do the bidding of the Chinese police. This is causing stress for Hong Kongers who live in Glasgow. I have spoken to people from Hong Kong who say they don’t feel safe walking the streets in fear that they will be accosted by someone representing the CCP (Chinese Communist Party)."

Mark Sabah, CFHK Foundation Director for UK & EU said:

I am delighted to see the Scottish Parliament discussing openly the need to fight against Chinese state interference and surveillance. This is an issue that needs to be tackled head on and needs to be tackled now. Alex Cole Hamilton MSP and Jeremy Balfour MSP are setting down a marker to politicians across the UK, that this issue is a vital national security concern. It’s time for the Prime Minister to take note and take concrete steps to counteract China’s surveillance in the UK.

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