U.S. widens blacklist over China’s abuse of Muslim minorities

Washington — The Biden administration added 14 Chinese companies to a trade blacklist on Friday over their alleged role in that country’s abuses of its Uighur civilians and other Muslim ethnic minorities.

The Commerce Department said in a statement that the electronics and technology firms and other businesses helped enable “Beijing’s campaign of repression, mass detention and high-technology surveillance” against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province.

The penalties, which prohibit Americans from selling equipment or other goods to the firms, are the latest from the United States as it steps up financial and trade penalties over China’s treatment of the Uyghur people.

The Chinese government since 2017 has detained a million or more people in the northwest province of Xinjiang. Critics accuse China of operating forced labor camps and carrying out torture and forced sterilization there as it allegedly seeks to assimilate Muslim ethnic minority groups.

In early January, the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. tweeted outlandish claims that such policies “emancipated” Uighur women and freed them from serving as “baby-making machines.” Twitter labelled the tweet as violating its rules and subsequently removed it. 

China pushing online propaganda 10:22

The Commerce Department also added to the blacklist on Friday companies that it said appeared to be assisting military programs or prohibited nuclear development in Russia, or violating trade sanctions on Iran.

“The Department of Commerce remains firmly committed to taking strong, decisive action to target entities that are enabling human rights abuses in Xinjiang or that use U.S. technology to fuel China’s destabilizing military modernization efforts,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “We will continue to aggressively use export controls to hold governments, companies and individuals accountable for attempting to access U.S.-origin items for subversive activities in countries like China, Iran and Russia that threaten U.S. national security interests and are inconsistent with our values.”

On the day of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of State on January 19 declared that China’s policies on Muslims and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang constitute a “genocide.”

New Secretary of State Antony Blinken has not backed away from that determination, saying in his first official remarks in the post that China’s Uighur population had been subjected to genocide. The U.S. is the first country to make the designation.