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US blacklists Chinese organizations over ‘repression’ in Xinjiang

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis (not pictured) attend a joint news conference at the medieval Castelgrande castle in Bellinzona, Switzerland June 2, 2019. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations for their alleged involvement in “human rights violations and abuses” against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.

The Department of Commerce on October 7 said the entities were now on the so-called Entity List, which bars them from buying products from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval.

The filing said the listed groups have been implicated in “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against [Uyghurs], Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

The targeted organizations include 20 Chinese public-security bureaus and eight companies such as video-surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial-recognition technology Sense Time and Megvii Technology.

Beijing expressed “strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition” to the U.S. move, and called claims of rights violations in Xinjiang “groundless.”

“This act seriously violates the basic norms of international relations, interferes with China’s internal affairs, and damages the interests of the Chinese side,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told a press briefing.

China is facing growing international criticism over its policies in Xinjiang.

UN experts and activists say at least 1 million Uyghurs, and members of other largely Muslim minority groups, have been detained in camps in the remote region. Beijing insists the detention sites are “vocational” centers aimed at training and skills development.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “China’s repressive campaign in Xinjiang is not about terrorism. It’s about China’s attempt to erase its own citizens.”

Pompeo made the remarks on September 22 during a meeting in New York with the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.

It is not the first time the administration of President Donald Trump has put Chinese companies under a trade ban. Telecom giant Huawei was added to the Entity List in May due to security fears over its products.

The world’s two biggest economies are currently in the midst of a trade war, having exchanged punitive tariffs.