US blacklists Chinese tech firms over human rights abuses

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The US government has extended its trade blacklist to Chinese technology companies as it ratchets up its trade war with China.

In a statement yesterday, the Bureau of Industry and Security of the US Department of Commerce announced it will add 28 Chinese governmental and commercial organisations to the entity list for engaging in or enabling activities contrary to the foreign policy interests of the US.

It notes this action constricts the export of items subject to the Export Administration Regulations to entities that have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in China’s campaign targeting Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

This will result in the Chinese companies being barred from purchasing components from US firms without US government approval.

The US government previously placed Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and its affiliates on a blacklist, citing national security concerns.

However, Huawei has denied these accusations, arguing the move was politically motivated and had nothing to do with national security.

The Chinese telecommunications company also said the US government’s actions violate the basic principles of free market competition.

Commenting on the latest blacklist, Wilbur Ross, secretary of commerce, says: “The US government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China.

“This action will ensure that our technologies, fostered in an environment of individual liberty and free enterprise, are not used to repress defenceless minority populations.”

According to BBC, China has launched a massive security operation in Xinjiang, in its far west, in recent years.

It notes human rights groups and the UN say China has rounded up and detained more than a million Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in vast detention camps, where they are forced to renounce Islam, speak only in Mandarin Chinese and learn obedience to the communist government.

China says those people are attending “vocational training centres” which are giving them jobs and helping them integrate into Chinese society, in the name of preventing terrorism.

Among the 28 entities are eight Chinese technology companies, including Hikvision, the world’s largest video surveillance products supplier, and its peer Zhejiang Dahua Technology; voice recognition software developer iFlytek; forensics app developer Meiya Pico; artificial intelligence giant SenseTime and its smaller peers Megvii and Yitu, as well as Yixin Science and Technology, a supplier of micro and nano fabrication equipment.

In addition to the companies, the People’s Government Public Security Bureau in Xinjiang and 19 of its “subordinate elements” have also been put on the list, according to the announcement.

Reuters reports that a US Hikvision spokesman said the company “strongly opposes” the decision and noted that in January it retained a human rights expert and former US ambassador to advise the company on human rights compliance.

“Punishing Hikvision, despite these engagements, will deter global companies from communicating with the US government, hurt Hikvision’s US business partners and negatively impact the US economy,” the company added.

It adds that John Honovich, founder of surveillance video research company IPVM, said Hikvision and Dahua both use Intel, Nvidia, Ambarella, Western Digital and Seagate Technology as suppliers and that the impact on the Chinese companies would be “devastating”.

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