(Bloomberg) — The Trump administration placed eight Chinese technology companies on a U.S. blacklist on Monday, accusing them of being implicated in human rights violations against Muslim minorities in China’s far-western province of Xinjiang.
The companies include two video surveillance companies — Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. – that by some accounts control as much as a third of the global market for video surveillance and have cameras all over the world.
The move, which was announced after U.S. markets closed, came on the same day negotiators from the U.S. and China began working-level preparations for high-level talks due to begin on Thursday in Washington. Entities on the list are prohibited from doing business with American companies without being granted a U.S. government license.
“Specifically, these entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups’’ in Xinjiang, the U.S. Commerce Department said in a federal register notice published on Monday.
The news broke just as President Donald Trump was attending the signing of a partial trade agreement with Japan and predicting a big week of talks with China.
“We think there’s a chance that we could do something very substantial,’’ he told reporters of the China talks. “I think they’re coming to make a deal, we’ll see whether or not a deal can be made.’’
Besides Hikvision and Dahua, the companies put on the blacklist include artificial intelligence companies iFlytek, Megvii Technology, Sense Time, Yitu Technologies.
Also included are Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co. Ltd, which bills itself as an “expert in digital forensics and cybersecurity in China,” according to its website, and Shanghai-based Yixin Science and Technology, a supplier of micro and nano fabrication equipment.
The move targets Chinese surveillance companies involved in the crackdown in Xinjiang, where as many as a million Uighur Muslims have been placed in mass detention camps, prompting criticism from around the world.
The blacklisting of these firms has been long in the making and national security advisers for months have been pushing for the president to move forward on the plan. But the timing is highly provocative, coming just days before China’s Vice Premier Liu He is schedule to arrive in Washington for high-stakes trade talks being watched by financial markets around the world.
The White House in May had readied the sanctions package for surveillance technology companies accused of human rights violations but decided to hold back because of the ongoing trade negotiations.
The Trump administration in June again considered the sanctions and had planned to roll them out with a human rights speech by Vice President Mike Pence on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square (NYSE:) massacre, Bloomberg has reported. The speech was postponed indefinitely — at the request of Chinese officials — so that President Trump could secure a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Osaka.
Also to be placed on the Commerce Department’s “entity list” are the Xinjiang region’s public security bureau and 18 other municipal and county public security bureaus as well as the province’s police college.
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