US blacklists 28 Chinese organizations over Uighur abuse in Xinjiang

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The US has blacklisted 28 Chinese organizations for allegedly abusing ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province in China.

The US has included 28 Chinese organizations in its Entity List, which bans them from purchasing products from US companies without approval from the government. These organizations include government agencies and technology companies that specialize in surveillance equipment.

According to a Commerce Department filing, these organizations are “implicated in human rights violations and abuses”. It stated that these groups are involved in “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

Human rights groups and the United Nations claimed that the Chinese government has been persecuting the mostly Muslim Uighurs in detention camps and calls these facilities “vocational training centers” to address extremism.

Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that China “demands its citizens worship government, not God” while in July, over 20 countries at the UN Human Rights Council signed a joint letter  calling out China’s treatment of Uighurs and other Muslims.

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The list of organizations included Xinjiang province’s Public Security Bureau along with 19 other government agencies, as well as facial-recognition technology specialists Hikvision, Dahua Technology and Megvii Technology. Hikvision is considered one of the largest surveillance equipment manufacturers in the world.

This move by the US is expected to hamper China’s technology initiatives in the short term as most of these organizations are focusing in artificial intelligence (AI). Currently, components for AI algorithm training are only manufactured by US firms such as Intel, Movidius and Nvidia.

These restrictions to US technology are forcing China to increase its efforts in developing its own technology. In May, the US also included Chinese telecommunications company Huawei in its Entity list over security concerns in its products. As a result, Huawei announced that it would start its own operating software to embed on its phones.

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