(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s defense department will remove all surveillance technology manufactured by Chinese companies Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. from its premises, the latest Western power to crack down on the technology giants. 

Deputy Prime Minister and defense minister Richard Marles will order an assessment of the use of technology produced by Hikvision and Dahua in the department, he said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday. 

“Where those particular cameras are found they’re going to be removed. There is an issue here and we’re going to deal with it,” he said.  

Hikvision and Dahua have been accused by US officials of involvement in China’s crackdown in the far western region of Xinjiang, where as many as a million Uyghur Muslims have been placed in mass detention camps. China has repeatedly denied any accusations of human rights abuses against its Uyghur minority.

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The US, a close Australian security partner, banned the use of the technology in November, stating national security concerns. At the time, Hikvision denied its products presented any threat to national security, while Dahua made a similar statement in 2021.

Beijing was opposed to “abusing the concept of national security and state power to suppress Chinese companies,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Thursday at a regular press briefing.

“We hope Australia will provide a fair and nondiscriminatory environment for Chinese business and to do more to improve our mutual trust and cooperation,” she said.

‘Completely Secure’

Since the election of Australia’s center-left Labor government in May, relations between Canberra and Beijing have been steadily improving after years of diplomatic tension. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said at a press conference Thursday that he wasn’t concerned about a backlash from China if Australia decided to remove the technology.

Marles told the ABC that while he didn’t want to “overstate” the risks, Australia’s government wanted to “make sure our facilities are completely secure.” 

The interview came after opposition Australian senator James Paterson earlier Thursday released details of an audit which found widespread use of Hikvision and Dahua surveillance equipment at more than 250 government sites across the country.

Paterson said in his release that Australia’s Department of Defence had not been able to state how many Hikvision and Dahua cameras were currently in operation on its premises. In his interview, Marles said the issue had preceded his party’s time in government.

--With assistance from Colum Murphy and Philip Glamann.

(Updates with comments from China’s Foreign Ministry.)

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