US hits Chinese companies with sanctions over alleged human rights abuses of Uighur Muslims

Commerce Department says restrictions will stop US technology being used in mistreatment of China’s Muslim minorities 

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 21 July 2020 10:33
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Marco Rubio on China's abuse of Uighur Muslims: 'This is sick'

The Trump administration has imposed trade sanctions on 11 Chinese companies complicit in human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims in the country’s northwest.

Monday’s announcement increases pressure on Beijing over Xinjiang, where Muslim minorities are believed to have faced mass detentions, forced labour and other abuses.

The 11 companies named on Monday, according to The Department of Commerce, would be blocked from purchasing US goods and technology.

They include current and former suppliers to major international brands such as Apple, Ralph Lauren, and Google.

“This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party’s despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations,” said Commerce Department secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement.

The Commerce Department named two gene-sequencing companies, Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI, as those who were “conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression” of Muslim minorities.

Human rights groups say Xinjiang authorities are creating a genetic database with samples from millions of people, although the practice of gathering genetic information has existed for almost two decades in the country.

An estimated 1 million or more Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are believed to have been placed in internment camps, which the Chinese government had described as vocational training facilities.

Camp survivors and close relatives say those held inside are forced, often with the threat of violence, to denounce their religion, culture and language and swear loyalty to Communist Party leader and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday that it opposed the Trump administration’s latest economic sanctions, and accused the US of abusing export control measures.

Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a daily media briefing that China would take all necessary measures to ensure the legitimate rights of Chinese firms.

The US Commerce Department imposed similar restrictions in June and October last year on 37 companies it said were “engaged in or enabling” abuses in Xinjiang.

The department issued a warning on July 1 that companies that handle goods made by forced labour or that supply technology that might be used in labour camps or for surveillance might face unspecified “reputational, economic and legal risks.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

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