U.S. to blacklist more Chinese companies with human rights abuses in Xinjiang

The Biden administration will place more than 10 Chinese companies on its economic blacklist as early as Friday for alleged human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang, Reuters reported.

The U.S. Commerce Department last month announced the blacklisting of five other companies and other Chinese entities accused of being involved in forced labor in Xinjiang.

Reuters quoted two sources as saying that adding more companies to the Commerce Department’s list of entities is part of the Biden administration’s effort to hold China accountable for human rights abuses.

China has dismissed allegations of genocide and forced labor in Xinjiang and said its policies are necessary to root out separatists and religious extremists who plan attacks and foment tensions between the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and China’s largest ethnic group, the Han Chinese.

The Commerce Department plans to add 14 Chinese companies to the list of entities because of reported human rights abuses in Xinjiang, a source told Reuters.

Details of the companies to be added to the entity list were not immediately available. Companies from other countries are also expected to be added to the Commerce Department’s blacklist as soon as Friday.

The White House declined to comment, and the Commerce Department did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Asked at a regular press conference on Friday about a Reuters report that the U.S. is preparing to put more Chinese companies on its economic blacklist, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said China will take all necessary measures to protect its companies.

The latest move suggests that President Biden is aiming to pressure China over what the administration says is a worsening of human rights abuses against Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Generally, entities listed on the stock exchange seeking permission to receive goods from U.S. suppliers are required to apply for licenses and face intense scrutiny from the Commerce Department.

The Commerce Department said last month that it is listing the five Chinese entities as “receiving or using forced labor to carry out the People’s Republic of China’s repression of the Muslim minority in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.”

The Commerce Department said the June action targeted five entities, including Chinese solar panel materials company Hoshine Silicon Industry Co, for “obtaining goods, software and technology …… The U.S. government-wide effort to take strong action against China’s ongoing campaign of repression against the Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

This is not the first time the U.S. government has targeted Chinese companies in connection with allegations of high-tech surveillance activities in Xinjiang.

In 2019, the Trump administration placed some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups on its economic blacklist because of its treatment of Muslim minorities.

The Commerce Department under Trump targeted 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies, including video surveillance company Hikvision, as well as Shang Tang Technology and Kuangwei Technology Co. which are leaders in facial recognition technology.

The U.S. Commerce Department said in 2019 that these entities were involved in “high-tech surveillance targeting members of the Uighur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities.”

U.N. experts and human rights groups estimate that more than 1 million people, mostly members of the Uighur and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in Xinjiang’s vast educational camps in recent years.