US adds 11 Chinese companies to economic blacklist over Beijing's treatment of Uighurs

It was the third group of companies and others in China added to the US entity list. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) The US Commerce Department on Monday (July 20) added 11 Chinese companies implicated in what it called human rights violations in connection with China's treatment of its Uighurs in Xinjiang in western China to the US economic blacklist.

The department said the companies were involved in using forced labour by Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups. They include numerous textile companies and two firms the government said were conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

Blacklisted firms cannot buy components from US companies without US government approval.

It was the third group of companies and institutions in China added to the US blacklist, after two rounds in which the Trump administration cited 37 entities it said were involved in China's repression in Xinjiang.

"Beijing actively promotes the reprehensible practice of forced labour and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

China's foreign ministry accused the US of abusing export control measures, in response to its latest move.

China firmly opposed the move and will take all necessary measures to ensure the legitimate rights of Chinese firms, foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said during a daily media briefing on Tuesday.

In May the Chinese Foreign Ministry criticised US entity list additions, arguing the United States "overstretched the concept of national security, abused export control measures, violated the basic norms governing international relations, interfered in China's internal affairs".

The companies added to the blacklist include Nanchang O-Film Tech, a supplier for Apple's iPhone, which hosted Apple chief executive Tim Cook in December 2017, according to O-Film's website. It is also a supplier to Inc and Microsoft, according to an April congressional letter. The US companies did not immediately comment.

The list includes two subsidiaries of Beijing Genomics Institute, a genomics company with ties to the Chinese government, Senator Marco Rubio said.

He said the additions will "ensure that US technology does not aid the Chinese Communist Party's crimes against humanity and egregious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, including the forced collection of DNA".

Also added are KTK Group Co, which produces more than 2,000 products used to build high-speed trains, from electronics to seats; and Tanyuan Technology Co, which assembles high thermal conductive graphite reinforced aluminum composites.

Another company is Changji Esquel Textile Co, which Esquel Group launched in 2009. Esquel Group produces clothing for Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss.

In a letter to Ross on Monday, Esquel Chief Executive John Chen asked its unit be removed from the list.

"Esquel does not use forced labour, and we never will use forced labour. We absolutely and categorically oppose forced labour," Chen wrote.

Efforts to reach other companies in China for comment were unsuccessful outside of normal business hours.

Also on the blacklist is Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories Co.

On May 1, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it was halting imports of the company's hair products, citing evidence of forced labour.

On July 1, CBP seized in Newark a shipment of almost 13 tonnes of hair products worth over US$800,000 (S$1.1 million) with human hair that it said originated in Xinjiang.

Commerce previously added 20 Chinese public security bureaus and companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology in connection with China's treatment of Muslim minorities.

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