US adds 11 companies to economic blacklist over China’s treatment of Uighurs

WASHINGTON: The US Commerce Department on Monday (Jul 20) added to its economic blacklist 11 Chinese companies implicated in what it called human rights violations in connection with China’s treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang. 

The department said the companies were involved in using forced labor by Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups. They include numerous textile companies and two firms the government said were conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

Blacklisted firms cannot buy components from US companies without US government approval.

It was the third group of companies and institutions in China added to the US blacklist, after two rounds in which the Trump administration cited 37 entities it said were involved in China’s repression in Xinjiang.

“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 a statement.

READ: China says it will hit back against new US sanctions over Uighur rights

The Chinese Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

In May the Chinese foreign ministry criticised US entity list additions, arguing the United States “overstretched the concept of national security, abused export control measures, violated the basic norms governing international relations, interfered in China’s internal affairs”.

The companies added to the blacklist include Nanchang O-Film Tech, a supplier for Apple’s iPhone, which hosted Apple chief executive Tim Cook in December 2017, according to O-Film’s website. It is also a supplier to Amazon.com and Microsoft, according to an April congressional letter. The US companies did not immediately comment.

They also include KTK Group, which produces more than 2,000 products used to build high-speed trains, from electronics to seats; and Tanyuan Technology, which assembles high thermal conductive graphite reinforced aluminum composites.

Another company is Changji Esquel Textile Co, which Esquel Group launched in 2009. Esquel Group produces clothing for Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Hugo Boss. In April, Esquel denied it used forced labor in Xinjiang.

In a letter to Ross on Monday, Esquel CEO John Chen asked its unit be removed from the list. “Esquel does not use forced labour, and we never will use forced labour. We absolutely and categorically oppose forced labour,” Chen wrote.

READ: US President Donald Trump has not ruled out sanctions on Chinese officials, says National Security Council

Also on the blacklist is Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories. On May 1, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it was halting imports of the company’s hair products, citing evidence of forced labor.

On July 1, CBP seized in Newark a shipment of almost 13 tons of hair products worth more than US$800,000, with human hair that originated in Xinjiang.

The list also includes two subsidiaries of Beijing Genomics Institute, a genomics company with ties to the Chinese government, Senator Marco Rubio said.

He said the additions will “ensure that US technology does not aid the Chinese Communist Party’s crimes against humanity and egregious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang, including the forced collection of DNA”.

Commerce previously added 20 Chinese public security bureaus and companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision , as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group and Megvii Technology in connection with China’s treatment of Muslim minorities.

Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, has said he would introduce legislation that would penalise US companies which use forced labor in their supply chains.