WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration on Friday added 14 Chinese companies and other entities to its economic blacklist over alleged human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang.
The Commerce Department said the companies had been “implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass detention, and high technology surveillance against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”
Beijing denies the alleged abuses.
Reuters first reported the planned additions late Thursday.
They include the China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology; Xinjiang Lianhai Chuangzhi Information Technology Co; Shenzhen Cobber Information Technology Co; Xinjiang Sailing Information Technology; Beijing Geling Shentong Information Technology; Shenzhen Hua’antai Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd.; and Chengdu Xiwu Security System Alliance Co., Ltd.
The Commerce Department said in total it was adding 34 entities including some from Russia and Iran, and another five entities directly supporting China’s military modernization programs related to lasers and battle management system.
“The Department of Commerce remains firmly committed to taking strong, decisive action to target entities that are enabling human rights abuses in Xinjiang or that use U.S. technology to fuel China’s destabilizing military modernization efforts,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.
The list also includes eight entities for facilitating the export of U.S. items to Iran and six entities for involvement in the procurement of U.S.-origin electronic components, likely in furtherance of Russian military programs.
The action follows the department’s decision last month to add five other companies and other Chinese entities to the blacklist over allegations of forced labor in the far western region of China.
China dismisses accusations of genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang and says its policies are necessary to stamp out separatists and religious extremists who plotted attacks and stirred up tension between mostly Muslim ethnic Uyghurs and Han, China’s largest ethnic group.
“The Chinese side will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies and rejects U.S. attempts to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Friday.
The latest action shows President Joe Biden aims to press China over what the administration says are worsening human rights abuses against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.
Generally, entities added to the economic blacklist are required to apply for licenses from the Commerce Department and face tough scrutiny when they seek permission to receive items from U.S. suppliers.
This is not the first time the U.S. government has targeted Chinese firms linked to allegations of high-tech surveillance activity in Xinjiang.
In 2019, the Trump administration added some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups to its economic blacklist over its treatment of Muslim minorities.
The Commerce Department under Trump targeted 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology Ltd.
Reporting by David Shepardson and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Gaerth Jones and Mark Potter