Barbara Boxer Registers To Lobby For Chinese Firm Blacklisted Over Surveillance Of Uyghurs

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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Former California Sen. Barbara Boxer has registered as a foreign agent for Hikvision USA, the American subsidiary of a Chinese surveillance company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. government.

Boxer, a Democrat, registered the work through Mercury Public Affairs, the prominent lobbying firm that she joined as a consultant early last year.

Boxer’s registration form, filed through the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, says she will be “providing strategic counsel” to Hikvision, which produces surveillance equipment for the Chinese government and Chinese military.

The Trump administration has cracked down on investments in firms linked to the Chinese government, including Hikvision and Huawei.

The Commerce Department added Hikvision to a trade blacklist on Oct. 8, 2019, for “repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance” of Muslim Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province.

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of China's entry into the Korean War. (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping (Photo by NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Hikvision, in which the Chinese government holds a 42% stake, also produces many of the cameras used to monitor U.S. military bases, streets and homes, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal on Nov. 12, 2017. (RELATED: Chinese Cameras Monitor US Bases, Streets, Homes)

Boxer’s work on the Hikvision account for Mercury could signal that the lobbying firm, which was founded by former Republican Rep. Vin Weber, wants to use a prominent Democrat for more of its government outreach.

Though Hikvision has been accused of being a tool of the repressive Chinese Community Party, Mercury hailed Boxer in an announcement of her hiring on Jan. 7, 2020, for crafting “policies to help improve our democracy” when she served in the Senate.

Boxer served as senator from 1993 until she retired in 2017. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was elected to replace Boxer in the Senate in November 2016.

Boxer initially endorsed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the Democratic presidential primary. She endorsed Biden on March 1, 2020, according to a Biden campaign statement put out ahead of the California primary.

According to Boxer’s FARA registration, she contributed $500 to Biden’s presidential inauguration fund.

David Vitter, a former Republican senator for Louisiana, is also a registered lobbyist for Hikvision. The Washington Post reported in October 2019 that Vitter complained in a company conference call about the Trump administration’s “assaults” against Hikvision.

“From the beginning, all of our collective goal in this very negative, anti-China trade war environment has really been to make sure Hikvision survived in the United States,” Vitter said on the call, according to The Post.

Mercury Public Affairs has lobbied on behalf of multiple controversial foreign clients, including the governments of Turkey, Libya and Kazakhstan.

Federal prosecutors also investigated Mercury in connection with a lobbying effort undertaken by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Manafort worked with several lobbying firms, including Mercury Public Affairs and the now-defunct Podesta Group, to lobby on behalf of the Ukrainian government through 2014.

Mercury and the Podesta Group were never charged in the investigation.

Mercury signed an agreement with Hikvision in August 2018 to provide “strategic consulting and management, related to lobbying, government relations, and public affairs for Hikvision,” related to the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The services will include outreach to U.S. officials,” Mercury said in its registration form.

Hikvision paid Mercury more than $914,000 in the first half of 2020, according to Mercury’s most recent financial disclosure.

Mercury did not respond to a request for comment.

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