Two Republican lawmakers are calling out Democrat-appointed congressional administrators for waging a stealth pressure campaign against a U.S. company on behalf of a Chinese surveillance firm, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the House clerk and Senate secretary.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.) say a massive Chinese surveillance firm implicated in the Chinese Communist Party's human rights abuses is using the offices of the House clerk and Senate secretary to "bully" an American company. The Chinese company, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, petitioned both congressional officers last year to launch an investigation into IP Video Market Info Inc. (IPVM), a U.S.-based firm that has exposed the CCP's use of Hikvision to monitor the enslaved Uyghur ethnic minority.
Clerk of the House of Representatives Ann Berry and Secretary of the Senate Cheryl Johnson, who are handling the investigation on behalf of Congress, informed IPVM in July that the company was under investigation due to an anonymous claim that it engaged in undisclosed lobbying work. Information came to light earlier this month that showed the anonymous accuser was Hikvision, according to Axios. The reporting raised the lawmakers' concerns that China orchestrated a congressional investigation into one of its top critics. IPVM says the complaint is part of a political campaign to silence its reporting and that the allegations against it are bunk.
Hikvision, the lawmakers write, "is attempting to subvert the law by attacking the integrity of its critics, using a cohort of American legal and public relations firms to do its bidding. Congress must not fall victim to its dishonest scheme." The lawmakers in their letter reprimand both congressional officers, warning them that they are doing the bidding of a CCP spy company. Rubio and Tenney write that Hikvision is using "the offices of the House Clerk and Secretary of the Senate to bully [IPVM] … into silence for its unfavorable reporting about the company."
The lawmakers urge both congressional officers to "not allow our transparent and open system to be cynically exploited by firms like Hikvision, which has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for its implication ‘in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China's campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.'"
Rubio and Tenney also say that other Communist companies may attempt to silence criticism by enlisting the help of Congress's ethics committees.
"Hikvision's efforts to silence dissent using your offices will likely be replicated by other malign entities tied to the CCP," they write. "Congress should take no part in these efforts. We urge your respective offices to see Hikvision's smear campaign against IPVM for what it is worth and to remain vigilant against future attempts to use your offices as a mechanism to chill free speech and silence dissent."
Hikvision in its original letter to congressional officials said that IPVM could be running afoul of lobbying disclosure laws because of its self-expressed work to influence the U.S. government. IPVM's founder said in October that the company "does increasingly talk to the U.S. (and other) governments but it is virtually always to inform them of things going on in this industry." The company maintains these conversations do not constitute lobbying.
IPVM disputes the charges and says Hikvision is targeting it as payback for a series of reports that expose how the CCP uses Hikvision's surveillance equipment to repress the Uyghurs and other populations.
Conor Healy, IPVM's government director, in comments to the Washington Free Beacon praised Rubio and Tenney for investigating the matter.
"Congress should not let China's state corporations, or any entities, abuse government ethics rules to intimidate media critics," Healy said. "It should be noted that Hikvision's attempt to silence IPVM comes amid much more widespread abuse of those that report on or speak out about the CCP, an entity responsible for unspeakable crimes against humanity including genocide."
Hikvision did not respond to the Free Beacon‘s request for comment on the matter.