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US to impose Visa bans on Chinese tech firms over rights abuses in Xinjiang, elsewhere

A Huawei location in Santa Clara, Calif., on April 19, 2018. (Yichuan Cao/Sipa USA/TNS)

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

The United States says it is imposing travel bans on employees of the technology giant Huawei and other Chinese companies Washington has accused of facilitating human right violations around the world, including in China’s western province of Xinjiang.

In a statement on July 15, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described Huawei as “an arm of the [Chinese Communist Party’s] surveillance state that censors political dissidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the indentured servitude of its population shipped all over China.”

Separately, the secretary of state told reporters that Huawei employees found to be providing “material support to regimes engaging in human rights violations and abuses globally” would be hit with sanctions.

It is not clear how many Huawei employees would be affected.

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Pompeo said in his statement that telecommunications companies around the world “should consider themselves on notice: If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers.”

The administration of President Donald Trump has led a campaign to convince foreign governments to bar Huawei from their advanced telecommunications networks, arguing that the Chinese company provides a gateway for Beijing to spy on and potentially attack countries that use its equipment.

On July 14, the British government said that Huawei equipment must be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by the end of 2027, claiming the company poses a national security threat.

Huawei denies it spies for Beijing and accuses Washington of trying to impede its growth.

Pompeo’s announcement comes amid an intensifying U.S. effort to pressure China over gross human rights abuses reported in the Xinjiang region, where Beijing is accused of placing more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim ethnic groups in internment camps and prisons where, since early 2017, they have been physically abused, subjected to ideological discipline, and forced to denounce their religion and language.

China says the camps are reeducation and training centers needed to combat separatist terrorism and extremism.

On July 9, Washington imposed sanctions on senior Chinese officials for “horrific and systematic” human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The U.S. sanctions were imposed amid already high tensions between Washington and Beijing over issues including China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the tightening of its grip on Hong Kong.