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Lawmakers question Costco over continued sale of surveillance tech linked to China’s human rights issues

By Jake Beardslee · November 3, 2023

In brief…

  • Lawmakers question Costco over continued sales of Lorex home security products linked to Chinese firm Dahua
  • Dahua tech accused of enabling human rights abuses against Uyghurs in China
  • Lawmakers say Lorex sales allow Dahua to profit in US despite sanctions and security concerns
  • Costco also asked about forced labor risks in supply chain for Chinese seafood
  • Competitors like Home Depot and Best Buy halted Lorex sales over ethical concerns
U.S. lawmakers challenged Costco's ongoing sales of surveillance equipment tied to a Chinese company implicated in human rights violations and security risks.  Curlyrnd/Wikimedia

U.S. legislators Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have confronted retail giant Costco over its ongoing sale of home security cameras and equipment made by Lorex. In an October 31 letter to Costco CEO Craig Jelinek, the lawmakers expressed concern that Lorex products present cybersecurity risks while also potentially enabling human rights violations in China.

Lorex was formerly owned by Chinese firm Dahua before being sold earlier this year to Taiwanese company Skywatch. However, as the letter stated, “Dahua still supplies all the component parts for the Lorex cameras and other surveillance equipment.” Dahua has faced U.S. government sanctions over its role in high-tech surveillance systems used to monitor the Uyghur minority population in China’s Xinjiang region. The U.S. has labeled China’s actions against Uyghurs as “genocide” according to TechCrunch.

The lawmakers said Costco’s continued sale of Lorex products allowing Dahua to “profit from the U.S. market” conflicts with Costco’s commitments to ethical sourcing and human rights. Competitors like Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s stopped selling Lorex products two years ago over such concerns.

There are also worries Lorex devices could pose security risks themselves or aid Chinese intelligence gathering. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission recently deemed equipment from Dahua and another Chinese firm, Hikvision, an “unacceptable risk” to national security. New FCC rules now block authorization of any Dahua or Hikvision products.

Beyond Lorex, the letter asked Costco to explain how sales of some Chinese seafood align with forced labor protections.