Dec 16, 2021 - World

U.S. sanctions Chinese tech companies over abuse of Uyghurs

President Biden.

U.S. President Joe Biden listens while meeting virtually with Xi Jinping on Nov. 15. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Department of Commerce added several Chinese research institutes and tech companies to an export blacklist Thursday for developing technologies that China can use to repress ethnic and religious minority groups in the country.

Why it matters: The new sanctions are the Biden administration's latest move to hold China accountable for what the U.S. has described as a genocide against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang province. The list bars U.S. companies from selling technology to the marked companies without a license.

  • The entities marked Thursday include China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences and its 11 research institutes.
  • The department also added companies in Georgia, Malaysia and Turkey for what it said were attempts to divert U.S. items to Iran’s military programs.

What they're saying: “The scientific pursuit of biotechnology and medical innovation can save lives. Unfortunately, the [People's Republic of China] is choosing to use these technologies to pursue control over its people and its repression of members of ethnic and religious minority groups," Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement.

  • "We cannot allow U.S. commodities, technologies, and software that support medical science and biotechnical innovation to be diverted toward uses contrary to U.S. national security," Raimondo added.
  • “The U.S. will continue to stand strong against efforts by the PRC and Iran to turn tools that can help humanity prosper into implements that threaten global security and stability.”

The big picture: Separately on Thursday, the Senate is expected to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

  • The bill passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The White House said President Biden would sign the legislation soon after it passes the Senate.
  • It comes after the Biden administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang. Several other countries have joined the U.S. in its boycott.
  • The Biden administration also announced sanctions last week against several people and entities with ties to human rights abuses in China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and North Korea.

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