UBS faces questions over ties to Uighur-linked firm
Surveillance company linked with persecution of the Muslim minority group in China
Swiss bank UBS’s business relationship with Hikvision, a surveillance company linked with the persecution of Uighurs in China, has come under scrutiny by the Society of Threatened Peoples (TSP).
In January, the TSP filed a complaint with the Swiss National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD about this relationship.
The matter was investigated by the Swiss NCP, which concluded a “direct link between UBS’s products and services and the alleged human rights violations could not be excluded”. This is the first time an NCP has recognised the responsibility banks have over holdings in passive funds as well as active strategies.
However, the Swiss NCP also concluded that no business relationship had been established between UBS and Hikvision with shares being held on a custodian basis only.
Reported by BankTrack, an activist group focused on stopping banks financing harmful business activities, this has been identified as a “worrying misinterpretation” of OECD guidelines. In this case, BankTrack warned that UBS had essentially been used as a counterparty to hide the identity of the beneficial owner of Hikvision shares.
“For the Swiss NCP to imply that UBS has no responsibility in this regard is deeply problematic,” noted BankTrack. “It creates a massive, and easy, escape route for investors to avoid application of the OECD Guidelines.
“OECD Watch and BankTrack call on the OECD to clarify the issue of business relationships in the situation of nominee shareholders and urge the Swiss NCP to reconsider its position in light of the spirit of the OECD Guidelines and UNGPs.”
Hikvision’s technology has been used by Chinese authorities to detect, track and monitor Uighur people in a move labelled by human rights groups as an act of oppression against this Muslim minority.Last Updated: 11 March 2021