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Chinese embassy in Lisbon faces scrutiny over surveillance cameras

Chinese embassy in Lisbon faces scrutiny over surveillance cameras
Chinese embassy in Lisbon faces scrutiny over surveillance cameras Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023
Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023
By Reuters
Published on Updated
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By Catarina Demony and Pedro Nunes

LISBON - Portuguese authorities are evaluating whether surveillance cameras recently installed around the Chinese embassy in Lisbon are legal after local residents raised privacy concerns.

Three big 360-degrees surveillance cameras surround the embassy. The cameras were installed around two months ago, a resident who wished to remain anonymous told Reuters.

Installed on metal poles, the cameras extend from the embassy premises. One is pointing at a public road. The other two are pointing up, with residents worried they might be able to film apartment buildings.

Portuguese law states surveillance cameras cannot point at properties or public roads and must "only capture what is strictly necessary to cover accesses to the property".

The embassy did not reply to a request for comment. The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

China has one of the world's most sophisticated surveillance systems, and some Chinese embassies have faced criticism for enforcing excessive monitoring and protective measures abroad.

The cameras' brand at the Lisbon embassy is Hikvision, a partly state-owned Chinese firm.

The British government told its departments in November to stop installing Hikvision or other Chinese-linked surveillance cameras at sensitive buildings, citing security risks.

A resident, who lives across the road from the embassy, described the situation as a "blatant violation of privacy".

The Portuguese foreign ministry told Reuters on Wednesday it had asked the relevant authorities to look into the matter.

A source familiar with the matter said the case was sent to the National Data Protection Commission (CNPD). CNPD has reached out to the embassy to clarify the situation.

"The installation of surveillance cameras obeys legally established rules, which any entity must, naturally, scrupulously comply with," the Portuguese foreign ministry said.

In the UK, there was a diplomatic dispute with China in November after a protester was allegedly dragged inside the grounds of the Chinese consulate in Manchester during a demonstration against President Xi Jinping.

China said the UK police had failed to protect its property.

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