The US Commerce Department has announced restrictions on 33 Chinese firms which are believed to have helped China spy on the Muslim Uighur population. The move adds them to an economic blacklist, restricting the sale of US goods to them.
The move was announced late on Wednesday and comes into affect today, 5 June 2020. Among those blacklisted are seven companies and two institutions who were “complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs”.
All the other companies, institutions and organisations among the 33 blacklisted, were found to have procured items for the Chinese Military to enable the oppression of the Muslim Uighur population.
In October 2019, 28 Chinese companies were added to the blacklist for abuse of Muslim Uighurs. Among them were some of China’s top AI start ups and video surveillance companies.
US companies Intel Corp and Nvidia Corp had been heavily investing in some of these Chinese firms which have now been found to be complicit in the oppression of Uighur Muslims. The blacklisting of these companies will make it harder for US companies to trade with them. Companies will have to apply for specific licenses and overcome the presumption of being denied permission.
Amazon got around blacklisted companies, will others?
In April, Amazon recruited Dahua technology in China for thermal equipment for its warehouses and purchased 1,500 video cameras to monitor staff due to Covid-19. Dahua had been blacklisted for alleged involvement in the oppression of Uighur Muslims.
Also in April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorised BYD, another Chinese company blacklisted for its role in oppression against Uighur minorities, to supply N95 respirator masks. The company has no previous experience producing masks. But this did not stop the State of California signing a $1Billion deal with the company for 150 million masks and 50 million surgical masks every month.
BYD’s suppliers include Hubei Yihong, a Chinese company which the Australian Strategic Policy Institute identified as one of 83 companies using forced labour from Uighur Muslim concentration camps. It has been alleged that, as such, manufacture of products by Apple, Nike and General Motors may have been produced by such labour.
Due to the country being stretched due to Covid-19, the decision has been made by China to send Uighur Muslims from the concentration camps into forced labour across China. 80,000 are being dispatched to Xinjiang and 50,000 to Shenzhen, it is likely more companies will become complicit in the genocide of the Uighur Muslims. The workers have no rights, receive no pay, have no holiday or break time and no power to challenge working conditions.
The move comes in addition to US lawmakers on Tuesday who passed a bill which sanctions China for abuse of the Muslim Uighur population. The sanctions bill has not been signed by President Trump yet, however he has said he is giving it serious thought. He has a deadline to consider it until 9 June, otherwise it would automatically become law. Such a move would be an additional blow to China.
“This is a genocide. More than a million people are in concentration camps. Millions more are harassed every day,”Republican Representative Chris Smith
US Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said “Over the years, there has been a real commitment to shine a bright light on human rights in China and to say to those who are affected by that, ‘you are not alone,'”
China has denied mistreatment and China’s Foreign Minister said China “deplored and firmly opposed” US sanctions.