The US has slapped further sanctions on Chinese drone-maker DJI, prohibiting people in the US from purchasing or selling certain publicly-traded securities connected with the company, along with seven other Chinese firms.
The US government said that these eight companies have supported efforts to “surveil and track the Uyghur people in Xinjiang region”.
DJI is one of the biggest drone companies in the world and last year, the US government added it to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List, which marked it as a national security concern and banned US-based companies from exporting technology to it.
“SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd. (SZ DJI) operates or has operated in the surveillance technology sector of the economy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“DJI has provided drones to the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, which are used to surveil Uyghurs in Xinjiang,” the US Treasury Department said in a statement on Thursday.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a press conference that “China always opposes US moves to overstretch the concept of national security and exert unwarranted suppression on Chinese companies”.
“The Chinese side has already shared the facts and truth on Xinjiang-related issues on many occasions. We will closely follow the relevant situation and firmly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies,” the spokesperson added.
A DJI spokesperson did not comment on the action but referred to the company’s response to last year’s sanctions, reports The Verge.
“DJI has done nothing to justify being placed on the Entity List. We have always focused on building products that save lives and benefit society. DJI and its employees remain committed to providing our customers with the industry’s most innovative technology. We are evaluating options to ensure our customers, partners, and suppliers are treated fairly,” the earlier statement read.
The US Treasury identified eight Chinese technology firms as part of the Chinese Military Industrial Complex.
“These 8 entities actively support the biometric surveillance & tracking of ethnic & religious minorities in China,” it said.
Chinese tech conglomerate Huawei has also reportedly been linked to domestic spying in Xinjiang region, while building technology for labour and re-education camps as well as surveillance systems in the western Chinese region largely populated by Uyghur Muslims.
According to PowerPoint presentations obtained by The Washington Post, the tech giant’s work may have been involved in the “persecution against ethnic minorities in the region”.
However, the presentations for Huawei’s work on surveillance systems did not mention Uyghurs, and the company has denied directly supplying tech to Xinjiang.
In Xinjiang, up to two million people from Uyghur and other ethnic Muslim minorities have allegedly been put into internment camps, according to the US State Department.
The Chinese government has been accused of carrying out several human rights violations against the Uyghurs, putting them in detention and re-education camps and using them for forced labour.
The US Treasury said this week that Chinese AI company SenseTime has been sanctioned because of the role its technology plays in enabling human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang — accusations that SenseTime has strongly denied.