US Imposes Sanctions On Chinese Tech Firms, Introduces Trade Curbs Over Abuse Of Uyghurs

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Dec 17, 2021 04:50 PM +05:30 IST
US Imposes Sanctions On Chinese Tech Firms, Introduces Trade Curbs Over Abuse Of UyghursUSA and China (Pixabay)
  • Several Chinese research institutes and tech businesses were added to an export blacklist by the US Department of Commerce including China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences and its 11 research institutions.

The United States government officials have imposed sanctions on a number of Chinese biotech and surveillance firms, alleging their use of technology to further oppress Uyghur Muslims.

Several Chinese research institutes and tech businesses were added to an export blacklist by the US Department of Commerce. China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences and its 11 research institutions were among the organisations marked on the list, which prohibits American corporations from selling technology to the companies added to it without first obtaining a licence.

The firms were blacklisted, according to officials, because they used their technologies against the Uyghurs, the Muslim minority living in China's Xinjiang province. China has been accused of genocide and other crimes against the Uyghurs by governments and human rights organisations all over the world, including torture, forced labour and forced sterilisation.

The new sanctions are the latest step by President Joe Biden’s administration to hold China responsible for what the US has called a genocide against Uyghur and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province.

On the other hand, China denies any wrongdoing. It claims that the actions it has taken are vital in the fight against terrorism and a separatist movement.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said: "The scientific pursuit of biotechnology and medical innovation can save lives. Unfortunately, the PRC [People's Republic of China] is choosing to use these technologies to pursue control over its people and its repression of members of ethnic and religious minority groups."

Additionally, she said: “We cannot allow US commodities, technologies, and software that support medical science and biotechnical innovation to be diverted toward uses contrary to US national security."

Raimondo stated that the US would continue to oppose efforts by China and Iran to transform tools that can help humanity prosper into measures that endanger global security and stability.

According to Commerce Department, various federal authorities' evaluations have found that the military academy and its research institutes "use biotechnology processes to support Chinese military end uses and end-users, to include purported brain-control weaponry", reported Associated Press.

As per the report, an unnamed senior official stated that the US intelligence has established that the Chinese government uses a surveillance system that includes biometric facial recognition to monitor Xinjiang citizens. It was also said that the Chinese government possesses DNA samples for all inhabitants aged 12 to 65.

The Blacklist

The American Treasury Department declared that DJI, the world's largest drone maker, and seven other Chinese companies had been placed on an investment blacklist for alleged biometric surveillance and tracking of Uyghurs.

DJI controls the global market for small, low-altitude drones, which are popular among enthusiasts, photographers, companies and governments.

Image-recognition software firm Megvii, supercomputer manufacturer Dawning Information Industry, facial recognition specialist CloudWalk Technology, cybersecurity group Xiamen Meiya Pico, artificial intelligence (AI) company Yitu Technology and cloud computing firms Leon Technology and NetPosa Technologies are among the companies added to the blacklist.

Last week, the Treasury Department put a prohibition on American investment in SenseTime, a Chinese facial recognition business, due to worries that the technology was being used to repress Uyghurs.

Trade Curbs

Separately, the US Senate has given final congressional approval to pass a bill on 16 December that would prohibit all imports from China's Xinjiang region unless the American government finds that the products were not created with forced labour.

The bill, 'The Uyghur Forced Labour Prevention Act', is now needed to be signed by President Joe Biden, and the White House has stated he will do it soon.

Raw cotton, gloves, tomato products, silicon and viscose, fishing gear and a variety of solar energy components are among the goods alleged to have been created with the use of forced labour, according to the US.

The officials also stated that Xinjiang is a resource-rich mining region with a thriving industrial sector and an important agricultural sector. According to them, the detainees are also transported outside of Xinjiang and placed in the factories, including those in the apparel and textiles, electronics, solar energy and automotive sectors.

Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who introduced the earlier version of the legislation said: “Many companies have already taken steps to clean up their supply chains. And, frankly, they should have no concerns about this law. For those who have not done that, they’ll no longer be able to continue to make Americans — every one of us, frankly — unwitting accomplices in the atrocities, in the genocide.”

However, Apple, like Nike and other companies that do business in China, claims to have discovered no evidence of Xinjiang forced labour in its manufacturing or supply chain.

This bill and the latest sanctions come after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2019 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to human rights violations and atrocities in Xinjiang. Several other countries have joined the boycott led by the US.

Separately, last week, the Biden administration issued penalties against a number of individuals and entities linked to human rights violations in China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and North Korea.

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