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A health worker at Kashgar Railway Station in Xinjiang on June 30. Photo: David Liu/Getty Images

The Commerce Department announced Monday it would add 11 Chinese companies to an export blacklist due to their involvement in human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

Between the lines: Two of the companies are subsidiaries of leading Chinese gene sequencing and biomedical firm BGI, which has contributed to efforts to document the genetic material of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

  • BGI has previously announced it would build a gene bank and a "judicial collaboration" center in Xinjiang.
  • Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI are the two subsidiaries that were added to the Commerce Department's Entity List.
  • Beijing Liuhe's involvement in genetic sequencing in Xinjiang was first reported by Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian.

BGI has also been supplying millions of coronavirus tests around the world — including in the U.S., where its tests have received FDA approval.

  • Officials fear that widespread coronavirus testing may provide an opportunity for Chinese state-connected companies to compile massive DNA databases for research as well as genetics-based surveillance.
  • BGI has significant and long-standing ties to the Chinese government and runs China's government-owned national gene bank.

The big picture: The other companies added to the export blacklist include Changji Esquel Textile and Nanchang O-Film, which say they have supplied U.S. brands like Apple, Nautica, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic and Calvin Klein, according to the New York Times.

  • Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories was also one of the companies targeted. Last month, U.S. border officers seized a shipment of almost 13 tons of wigs and other human hair products suspected of being made through forced labor in Xinjiang.

What they're saying: "Beijing actively promotes the reprehensible practice of forced labor and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in the statement.

  • "This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party’s despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations."

Go deeper: Read more about BGI's gene-sequencing efforts in Xinjiang

Go deeper

Oct 27, 2020 - World

Senators introduce bipartisan resolution to label Xinjiang abuses "genocide"

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

A cadre of bipartisan senators introduced a resolution on Tuesday to formally label the Chinese government's human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the region of Xinjiang as "genocide."

Why it matters: China has faced global backlash for its repression in Xinjiang, where ethnic minorities are subject to surveillance, torture and detention in mass "re-education" camps. But genocide is a serious crime under international law, and the U.S. invokes the formal label only in rare cases.

Oct 26, 2020 - World

China to sanction Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon over Taiwan arms sales

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen during a visit to Penghu Air Force Base. Photo: Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images

China plans to impose unspecified sanctions on Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other U.S. companies involved in weapons sales to Taiwan, Reuters reports, citing a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

Why it matters: The Trump administration last week notified Congress of an additional $1.8 billion in proposed arms sales to Taiwan. China's recent military exercises and the buildup of forces along its southeastern coast have renewed fears of an invasion of Taiwan, which Beijing views as a breakaway province that must be brought under its control.

22 mins ago - World

China crosses 1 billion vaccinations, with 500 million in one month

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

China has now administered 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines — 500 million of them in just the past month. That's half of the global total during that period.

The big picture: China's vaccine rollout started slowly, due in part to a low sense of urgency and also to the fact that the government was focusing on exporting doses.