Surveillance cameras at hot pot restaurants in Canada, Taiwan suspected of being part of China’s sprawling social credit system

Published (HKT): 2021.04.22 05:15

A hot pot chain from China was found to have installed more than 60 surveillance cameras to monitor its staff and customers at one of its locations in Canada, with recorded footage sent back to mainland China, according to a news report.

A Vancouver branch of the popular Haidilao hot pot restaurant installed two cameras at each of its 30 tables at the request of the chain’s headquarters in China, India’s Sunday Guardian reported, citing restaurant manager Ryan Pan.

The surveillance cameras were part of Beijing’s social credit system and were used to “people track” and check if staff adhered to corporate standards, according to Pan.

Video footage was sent back to China, Pan said, adding that the reason for doing so was a secret, although he declined to further elaborate.

Originally from China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, Haidilao operates two outlets in Vancouver. One is located within walking distance of a dormitory Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei has rented for its temporary staff. It’s also less than 10 minutes from arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou’s mansion, the report said.

Similar surveillance systems were also found in Haidilao outlets in Taiwan. Around 50 to 60 cameras were found near seats, tables and hanging from the ceiling in one Taipei outlet, while some larger outlets had up to 100 cameras, Apple Daily Taiwan has found.

Haidilao Taiwan on Tuesday dismissed the report about surveillance cameras found at the chain’s Vancouver location. It said the cameras in its Taiwan outlets were “image collecting devices” used to ensure the safety of customers. The company added that it would strictly protect the privacy of its customers but declined to comment on whether recordings would be sent to mainland China.

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