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CES 2019 welcome arch

Experts warn that CES is helping normalize Chinese surveillance companies by giving them a platform at the largest tech trade show in the world. 


This story is part of CES 2020, our complete coverage of the showroom floor and the hottest new tech gadgets around.

CES is often considered the Super Bowl of tech, with over 4,000 companies flocking to Las Vegas every January to show off innovations like and . But human rights and privacy advocates say they’re worried that the world’s largest consumer tech trade show is now being used to give credibility to two Chinese surveillance companies flagged for human rights violations. 

The first, iFlytek, is . The second is Hikvision, the largest surveillance camera supplier in the world, whose US arm, Ezviz, sells smart home products. In early October, the , along with six others, essentially blacklisting them from doing business with US companies because of rights violations and concerns about surveillance overreach. 

A month later, iFlytek and Ezviz are still listed among the attendees for CES 2020, put on by the Consumer Technology Association, a US trade group. 

Their presence at the show, which gives them a global platform and an opportunity to present themselves as friendly, tech-savvy organizations, could lend them an air of legitimacy right after the US government has sanctioned them for their actions. 

“These kinds of relations help to normalize companies that have a role in contributing to human rights abuses in China,” Human Rights Watch senior researcher Maya Wang said. “It desensitizes us from asking more questions and trying to put in place mechanisms to protect human rights before it’s too late.”

Hikvision, Ezviz and iFlytek didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. 

A spokeswoman for the Consumer Technology Association said the group was reviewing iFlytek, which CNET previously reported was . The group didn’t respond to requests for comment about Ezviz — a subsidiary of Hikvision. And the trade organization said on Friday it didn’t have any updates on its review process.

But others are asking the organization to take action. 

“I’d urge CES to rethink this decision. Participants in China’s Xinjiang concentration camps should not get to showcase their products at America’s premier consumer electronics show,” Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said in a statement.