US blacklists Chinese agencies and tech giants involved in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims

25th Oct 2019
US blacklists Chinese agencies and tech giants involved in the persecution of Uyghur Muslims

A demonstrator takes part in a protest in Washington (on April 6) against China’s human rights abuses against Uyghur a Muslims, calling on the US to take action against Beijing (Photo:Yasin Öztürk/Anadolu Agency)

Meng Yihua

After years of painful silence from international leaders on human rights abuses on the Uyghur ethnic Muslim minority in China, the United States has taken steps against those involved in the abuses.

Earlier this month, the US Government blacklisted 28 Chinese entities including eight commercial tech giants and 20 Government agencies and security bureaus linked to the surveillance and mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in internment camps in northwest China.

A few days later, the US State Department announced visa restrictions on Chinese Government and other Communist Party officials which it finds “responsible for or complicit in” the abuses against the ethnic Muslim minorities, including Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz groups.

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, referred to these restrictions as being ‘complementary’ to the Commerce Department’s decision to add the 28 companies to a US trade blacklist.

Despite civilian protests taking place since the detentions began, governments have largely remained silent on the issue, for fear of economic and political consequences given China’s importance to their national economies.

However, with at least one million ethnic Muslim minorities now imprisoned without cause or trial, and some sources claiming up to two million, condemnation must be forthcoming.

At the UN Human Rights Council in July, more than 20 countries joined in signing a letter criticising China’s treatment of the Muslim minority groups. The latest US actions signal the first time China is being held to account for torturing, persecuting and politically indoctrinating the religious minority groups in Xinjiang, a region known to locals as East Turkestan.

The latest visa restrictions may also impact family members of the affected officials, though specific details surrounding the number and identity of targeted officials have not been disclosed.

While these visa restrictions are a welcome indication of a Western government breaking the silence on the issue, the move is predominantly symbolic, given that the targeted officials seldom travel abroad. Mike Pompeo later tweeted: ‘China has forcibly detained over one million Muslims in a brutal, systematic campaign to erase religion and culture in Xinjiang.’

China has consistently denied any mistreatment of the Uyghurs and responded vehemently to the latest US actions.

A spokesperson from the Chinese Embassy condemned the visa restrictions, accusing the US of interfering in China’s internal affairs. A spokesperson from the Chinese foreign ministry said that the American allegations were “groundless and senseless”, and the sanctions on Chinese companies violate “basic rules of international relations.”

The blacklisted companies include some of China’s leading AI firms, such as Alibaba-backed Megvii Technology Ltd and two of the world’s largest video surveillance product manufacturers: Hikvision and Zhejiang Dahua Technology. The 28 blacklisted companies need to approach the Commerce Department to obtain a license if they wish to continue doing business with the US, though licenses will be issued at the discretion of the Commerce Department.

This is in line with the May ban on Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies from procuring technology from US companies without acquiring US Government approval, following suspicions that Beijing could be using Huawei technology for spying.

In a tweet, the Chinese Embassy in the US urged Washington to ‘correct its mistakes at once.’ US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, David Stilwell, said, “The goal is to get them to reconsider this terrible policy they have”, and these actions show that “this administration is following through.”

However, Sophie Richardson, China Director at Human Rights Watch, raised concerns about whether the sanctions had been put in place merely to be used as a bargaining chip for the sake of progress at trade talks later the same week.

According to a Bloomberg report, the sanctions had been under consideration since June, when US Vice President, Mike Pence, planned to announce them along with a human rights speech on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
Regardless, the blacklist marks the first time the Trump Administration has cited human rights as a reason for the action and has been warmly welcomed by Chairman of the World Uyghur Congress, Omer Kanat.

Republican US Senator Tom Cotton praised the State Department announcement and urged US allies to follow suit, saying that Chinese officials “who place Uyghur and other minority groups in concentration camps shouldn’t be allowed to visit the United States and enjoy our freedoms.”

China’s President, Xi Jinping, said in a recent visit to Nepal, that attempts to “split China in any part of the country will end in crushed bodies and shattered bones.” In response to US action, China is also planning tighter visa restrictions for US nationals who have links to any anti-China groups.

A demonstrator takes part in a protest in Washington (on April 6) against China’s human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims, calling on the US to take action against Beijing

Leave a Comment

What is 2 + 15 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)

Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

Latest Tweets