- The US Commerce Department said it was adding 11 Chinese companies to an export blacklist (or Entity List) over their alleged ties to forced labor of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
- Two of the companies are subsidiaries of BGI, a company that provides coronavirus tests worldwide.
- BGI, a leading gene-sequencing company, has supplied more than 10 million coronavirus tests across the world.
- The company reportedly “contributed to efforts to document the genetic material of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang,” Axios wrote.
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The United States has put 11 Chinese companies on a blacklist (or Entity List) over their alleged ties to human rights abuses towards Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China, Axios reported.
US Commerce Department wrote in a release that the companies were “implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, involuntary collection of biometric data, and genetic analyses targeted at Muslim minority groups from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).”
According to Axios, two of the companies are subsidiaries of BGI, a top gene sequencing, and a biomedical firm, whose coronavirus test has been given FDA approval.
In response to the Commerce Department’s list, BGI spokesperson told The Washington Post it was “still evaluating this announcement.”
Companies that get blacklisted are banned from buying parts of US companies without approval from the federal government, Reuters reported.
“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.
Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI were the two BGI subsidiaries added to the blacklist for their alleged “connection with conducting genetic analyses used to further the repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities,” the Commerce Department said in its statement.
Last month, Axios reported that BGI had agreed to build a “gene bank” in Xinjiang, which it denies.
“We have never been involved in the collection, storage, or analysis of personal genetic information with the potential for or the purpose of violating human rights for special regions or groups,” BGI said in a statement last month, in regards to allegations of building a gene bank.
As of last month, the company supplied more than 10 million coronavirus tests across the globe including sending tests to the US.
Axios also reported that US officials are concerned that with the number of coronavirus tests the company is providing abroad, it could make it easier for them to collect a large amount of genetic information.
Other companies blacklisted include Changji Esquel Textile and Nanchang O-Film, which have provided supplies to companies like Apple and Nike, among other well known US brands.
Esquel Chief Executive John Chen sent a message to Ross on Monday asking to be taken off the list, Reuters reported.
“Esquel does not use forced labor, and we never will use forced labor. We absolutely and categorically oppose forced labor,” Chen wrote.
Other companies include KTK Group Co., which produces products to build high-speed trains, Tanyuan Technology Co, and Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories.
In recent years there have been multiple reports alleging human rights abuses toward Turkic minorities in Xinjiang. According to reports, the Chinese Communist Party has constructed hundreds of prisons and detention centers in Xinjiang and the surrounding region.
People who have been inside them — either as a visitor, employee, or inmate — have spoken of the forced consumption of forbidden foods in Islam, such as pork, mass surveillance, and various other forms of psychological and physical torture.
Leaked documents published by The New York Times alleged a “ruthless and extraordinary campaign,” with instructions on how to handle every facet of the mass internment even down to how to answer the basic question of someone asking where their missing family member was. Uighurs who live abroad have said they’ve been harassed and threatened by the Chinese government to remain silent.
The Chinese government has repeatedly denied these allegations. China sees Uighurs as religious extremists, and claims all its actions against the mostly-Muslim group are “counterterrorism and de-extremism measures,” and has claimed that the detention centers are instead re-educating centers and vocational training centers.
However, many activists have called the treatment of Uighurs tantamount to “genocide.”