US puts trade curbs on 5 Chinese firms over alleged role in Uyghur repression

Illustration shows U.S. and Chinese flags
U.S. and Chinese flags are seen in this illustration taken, January 30, 2023. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - The Biden administration on Tuesday imposed new trade restrictions on five Chinese companies for allegedly aiding in the repression of the Uyghur Muslim minority but China rejected the accusation as "lies" aimed at constraining it.

According to Hikvision's 2021 half-year report, at least four of the companies facing new curbs belong to the Chinese surveillance camera maker including Luopu Haishi Dingxin Electronic Technology Co, Moyu Haishi Electronic Technology Co, Pishan Haishi Yong'an Electronic Technology Co and Urumqi Haishi Xin'an Electronic Technology Co.

Yutian Haishi Meitian Electronic Technology Co Ltd was also added.

Hikvision did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The companies "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 the Uyghur people and members of other Muslim minority groups," in the Xinjiang region, the Commerce Department said in a posting in the Federal Register.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the United States "wantonly suppresses Chinese firms with lies and politicises normal business and economic cooperation" and its move is aimed at destabilising Xinjiang and using the issues to constrain China.

"The idea that there exists so-called repression of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang has long been debunked," Mao said at a regular briefing on Wednesday.

She also said that China would take all necessary measures to defend the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese firms.

Being added to the entity list means U.S. suppliers must get a special and difficult-to-obtain license before shipping goods to those companies.

The United States has increasingly used the list to target Chinese firms.

Hikvision was placed on the U.S. trade blacklist in 2019 for being implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of what rights groups and Uyghur activists say is China's campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang.

Reporting by Alexandra Alper, David Shepardson, and Karen Freifeld; Additional reporting by Laurie Chen in Beijing; Editing by Franklin Paul and Stephen Coates

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