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U.S. Blacklist of Chinese Companies Balances Human Rights Concerns with the Ongoing Trade War

As China continues to crack down on Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region of the country, the United States has added 28 companies to a blacklist of Chinese companies who may have a role in the crackdown against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other minorities in China.

China maintains that the camps that it has placed Muslim minorities in for over two years are “voluntary de-radicalization camps” and “vocational training centers,” yet survivors of these camps compare them to internment camps and describe acts of torture and violent abuse.

CNN detailed that the blacklist includes artificial intelligence firms as well as companies that specialize in high tech forensics.

The organizations targeted by the United States are now barred from buying US products or importing American technology. The list includes 20 government and security bureaus in Xinjiang, and eight companies, including Hikvision, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of AI-driven video surveillance products, and Meiya Pico, a leading digital forensics firm.

“The US Government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “This action will ensure that our technologies, fostered in an environment of individual liberty and free enterprise, are not used to repress defenseless minority populations.”

Hikvision suspended trading roughly the same time as the announcement but didn’t mention the blacklist in their statement.

Although they haven’t responded directly to the move by the United States, Chinese officials maintain that their treatment of minorities is above board and not at all unusual.

In a statement to CNN on October 4 responding to allegations of human rights abuses, the Xinjiang government said that “cracking down on crimes in accordance with law is the common practice of all countries.”

This move in the name of human rights comes at the same time as the trade war between the U.S. and China, one that has heated up and cooled down over the past few months.

More trade talks will take place in Washington between the two nations in hopes of ending the trade war. President Trump didn’t express much confidence when reporters asked him about the upcoming talks.

Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, President Donald Trump said “my inclination is to get a big deal. We’ve come this far. We’re doing well.”

“Can something happen? I guess, maybe. Who knows? But I think it’s probably unlikely. Okay?” Trump added.

Can the United States continue to do the right thing on human rights for minorities in China while striving to smooth out trade relations? It’s tough to say, and it’ll be interesting to see if or how the human rights blacklist will play into the talks. I can’t help but think that this trade war will drag on for a long, long time.

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