The Trump administration said Monday that it had added 28 Chinese organizations to a United States blacklist over concerns about their role in human rights violations, effectively blocking those entities from buying American products.
The organizations have been implicated in China’s campaign targeting Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, according to a Commerce Department filing.
Among the entities being placed on the list are Hikvision and Dahua Technology, two of the world’s largest manufacturers of video surveillance products. Those products are central to China’s ambitions to be the top global exporter of surveillance technology.
The list also includes companies that specialize in artificial intelligence, voice recognition and data as well as provincial and local security bureaus that have helped construct what amounts to a police state in Xinjiang. These entities have been involved “in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance,” the filing said.
The move was announced just days before high-level Chinese and American officials meet in Washington to try to resolve a trade war that has begun inflicting pain on both sides of the Pacific.
A Commerce Department spokesman said Monday that the action was not related to those talks. But the decision is likely to rankle the Chinese government, which has helped support some of these companies as they have developed into cutting-edge technology firms.
“The U.S. government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
Beijing has constructed an advanced surveillance system, in what it describes as an effort to fight Islamist extremism among the Uighurs, the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang. But many Uighurs and others around the world say Chinese officials are trying to suppress their culture and religion.
Human Rights Watch has said the violations are of a “scope and scale not seen in China since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution,” and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called China’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century.”
Yet administration officials have wavered on how much to keep human rights and economic concerns separate in their negotations with China. Many officials emphasize that the topics are separate, but the administration has shelved several proposals that would have shined light on China’s abuses over concerns that a tough stance could upset trade talks. And President Trump himself has often linked national security and other concerns to trade talks.
On Monday, Mr. Trump said “bad” action in Hong Kong, the site of violent protests, would hurt progress on trade and urged China to find a “humane solution.”
“I think they’re coming to make a deal,” he said of the Chinese. “It’s got to be a fair deal.”
The Trump administration has steadily ratcheted up pressure on China through tariffs on more than $360 billion of Chinese products and other restrictions on Chinese investment in the United States. The administration has also begun looking to restrict exports to China.
This year, the administration placed Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment giant, on the blacklist, saying it posed national security concerns. It added five Chinese entities to the list in June, also citing national security.
American companies can still apply for licenses to supply products to organizations that have been placed on the Commerce Department entity list, but the government may deny the applications.
The companies on the list help illustrate the breadth and development of China’s surveillance industry, which increasingly uses predictive technology to track its own citizens, or spot potential protests or crimes as they occur.
The new additions include several artificial intelligence start-ups: Megvii, SenseTime and Yitu Technologies. They also include iFlytek, which makes voice recognition software; Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Company, a data forensics company; and Yixin Science and Technology Company, which makes nanotechnology.
The listed government entities include Xinjiang’s public security bureau and 19 subordinate bureaus and institutes.
Several of the firms have grown into global operations while servicing an extensive market in China. Hikvision said it had more than 34,000 employees and dozens of divisions worldwide, and it has supplied products to the Beijing Olympics, the World Cup in Brazil and Linate Airport in Milan. Dahua Technologies has more than 16,000 employees, according to its website, with divisions in North America, Europe and Latin America.