The U.S. is moving to blacklist several Chinese firms behind facial recognition technology that officials say Beijing is using against China’s Muslim minorities.
The Commerce Department on Monday applied to put the firms on its Entity List of companies that act against American foreign policy interests, under which U.S. companies would be prohibited from selling them technology without government approval.
“Specifically, these entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups” in Xinjiang, the Commerce Department said in a federal register notice published Monday.
The firms in question include video surveillance company Hikvision and Chinese AI firms Sense Time, Megvii and iFlytek.
The move comes on the same day Chinese and U.S. negotiators commenced preparations for high-level trade negotiations between Beijing and Washington set to begin Thursday, according to Bloomberg.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week urged central Asian countries where members of the Uighur ethnic minority had fled to “resist” Chinese demands to repatriate them in a meeting with foreign ministers representing Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
“It’s about China’s attempt to erase its own citizens,” Pompeo reportedly said. “We call on all countries to resist China’s demands to repatriate the Uighurs.”