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08 Oct 2019

12 questions on US Blacklist over Xinjiang Concentration Camps

Hikvision logoUPDATE: A day after this blacklist was announced, in a separate move, the US State Department said it was imposing a visa ban on Chinese government and Communist Party officials connected with the repression in Xinjiang. No names were disclosed. 

1: Who is blacklisted?

28 Chinese entities that specialise in surveillance equipment including facial recognition tech; 20 police organizations and eight companies.

2: Can you give us some names?

Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (the local police); Hikvision (one of the world’s biggest surveillance companies); Dahua Technology; and Megvii Technology (into which Hunter Biden is said to have invested through a fund called BHR Partners).

3: Why are they being blacklisted?

Because of their role “in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance” in Xinjiang. Around 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are thought to be incarcerated in concentration camps there while high tech surveillance equipment has turned the region into a police state.

4: What is the name of the blacklist mechanism?

The Entity List. Here’s the official website.

It targets “entities reasonably believed to be involved, or to pose a significant risk of being or becoming involved, in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

5: Who issued it?

The US Commerce Department (under Bureau of Industry & Security, or BIS). Comes into force this week.

6: What does it mean to be on this blacklist?

None of them will be able to buy components or technology from US companies unless that US company applies for and gets a special permit from BIS.

7: Can you name some of their US suppliers?

Sure. According to Reuters they include Intel, Nvisia, Ambarella, Western Digital and Seagate Technology.

8: Can we see the order?

Yes. Here.

“These [28 organizations & 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 Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in (Xinjiang)."

9: Will it have any impact?

At the very least the blacklist sets a precedent for other countries to begin voicing strong opposition and taking action against Beijing for the mass atrocities it is perpetrating against minority peoples in Xinjiang. The global response has been muted at best until now.

Some say that at least in the short term it will hurt China’s artificial intelligence sector because components for AI algorithm training are only made by US firms (Intel, Movidius and Nvidia). But, in the long term it may spur China on faster to start making its own components.

It will also hurt their US suppliers, but these companies should absolutely not be doing business that aids gross human rights abuses.

10: Is this first time the Entity List has been used against China?

No. It was used earlier this year against Huawei on national security grounds.  According to Reuters that hurt its US suppliers and made it difficult for Huawei to sell new products. And it's been used against hundreds of other companies. The full list of blacklisted companies can be found here. The list of Chinese entities runs to 50 pages! But, it is the first time the Entity List has been used on the grounds of Xinjiang’s Concentration Camps.  

11: I want to know more about these surveillance companies and what they’re doing in Xinjiang.

Sure. Here’s some background on Hikvision and its US customers, all the big players, and an explainer by Human Rights Watch on a police app.

HikVision’s role in Xinjiang

Based in Hangzhou, they are the world's largest supplier of video surveillance products. Their biggest shareholder is the Chinese government. Their surveillance cameras are deployed in more than 150 countries and regions across the world.

HikVision have won contracts to supply surveillance systems for concentration camps and mosques in Xinjiang. It also won contracts for a citywide surveillance system across the capital Urumqi, including cameras, intelligent monitoring, and video analytics. Their parent company CETC (state-owned), developed a platform called IJOP that is used to collect data on the behaviour of locals and flag up those to be sent to the camps.  


12: What other political tools are possible to punish China over Xinjiang?

In September US Senate passed the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act that urged Washington to take action over the concentration camps. A proposal to impose Magnitsky Sanctions on Chinese entities over these abuses (which would involve visa bans and asset freezes) has been stalled for months. The State Department visa bans mentioned at the top of this article appear to be using a separate mechanism to Magnitsky but have, at least in part, the same effect.


The complete list of entities on the blacklist

State entities (20)

(1) Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) People’s Government Public Security Bureau (Xinjiang police)

18 subordinate police bureau and 1 police college in Xinjiang

(2) Aksu District Public Security Bureau;

(3) Altay Municipality Public Security Bureau;

(4) Bayingolin Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture Public Security Bureau;

(5) Boertala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture Public Security Bureau;

(6) Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture Public Security Bureau;

(7) Hami Municipality Public Security Bureau;

(8) Hetian Prefecture Public Security Bureau;

(9) Kashgar Prefecture Public Security Bureau;

(10) Kelamayi Municipality Public Security Bureau;

(11) Kezilesu Kyrgyz Autonomous Prefecture Public Security Bureau;

(12) Shihezi Municipality Public Security Bureau;

(13) Tacheng Prefecture Public Security Bureau;

(14) Tumushuke Municipal Public Security Bureau;

(15) Turfan Municipality Public Security Bureau;

(16) Urumqi Municipal Public Security Bureau;

(17) Wujiaqu Municipality Public Security Bureau;

(18) Xinjiang Police 5 College;

(19) Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) Public Security Bureau;

(20) Yili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture Public Security Bureau.


Companies (8)

(21) Dahua Technology;

(22) Hikvision;


(24) Megvii Technology;

(25) Sense Time,

(26) Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co. Ltd.;

(27) Yitu Technologies;

(28) Yixin Science and Technology Co. Ltd