WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Thursday it is imposing new sanctions on several Chinese biotech and surveillance companies and government entities for actions in Xinjiang province, the latest step against Beijing over human rights abuses of Uyghur Muslims in the country’s western region.
The Commerce Department is targeting China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences and its 11 research institutes that focus on using biotechnology to support the Chinese military.
The move bars American companies from selling components to the entities without a license.
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.”
Separately, the Treasury Department announced that it’s placing DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, and seven other Chinese companies on an investment blacklist over their alleged involvement in biometric surveillance and tracking of Uyghurs.
The measure means that individuals in the U.S. will be prohibited from purchasing or selling publicly traded securities connected with the companies.
DJI dominates the global market for the small, low-altitude drones used by hobbyists, photographers, and many businesses and governments.
Other companies added to the Treasury blacklist are image-recognition software firm Megvii, supercomputer manufacturer Dawning Information Industry, facial recognition specialist CloudWalk Technology, cybersecurity group Xiamen Meiya Pico, artificial intelligence company Yitu Technology as well as cloud computing firms Leon Technology and NetPosa Technologies.
U.S. intelligence has established that Beijing has set up a high-tech surveillance system across Xinjiang that uses biometric facial recognition and has collected DNA samples from all residents, ages 12 to 65, in Xinjiang as part of a systematic effort to suppress Uyghurs, according to a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the sanctions on the condition of anonymity.
The Commerce Department, in a rule detailing its decision, said a review by multiple federal agencies had determined that the Chinese academy and research institutes “use biotechnology processes to support Chinese military end uses and end users, to include purported brain-control weaponry.”
The White House announced last week it would stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing China’s “egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang.” U.S. athletes will continue to compete but Biden will not send the usual contingent of dignitaries.
The administration also said this week that it supported bipartisan legislation that bans imports into the U.S. from Xinjiang unless companies can demonstrate the goods were not produced by forced labor.
China has denied any abuses and says the steps it has taken are necessary to combat terrorism and a separatist movement.