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U.S. sanctions Chinese companies linked to illicit surveillance

The Treasury Department on Thursday blacklisted eight Chinese companies, including global drone market leader DJI Technology, as part of a campaign to punish what United States officials say is illicit surveillance of minority Uyghurs and other Chinese ethnic and religious groups by Beijing.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control identified the eight firms as linked to biometric surveillance and tracking in China including western Xinjiang province where the State Department in January declared a genocide was underway against the the Muslim Uyghur population in the region. The technology companies were sanctioned under a June presidential order designed to prevent American securities from financing the Chinese military.

The sanctions prohibit U.S. companies from buying or selling certain publicly-traded securities linked to the companies.

“Today’s action highlights how private firms in China’s defense and surveillance technology sectors are actively cooperating with the government’s efforts to repress members of ethnic and religious minority groups,” said Brian E. Nelson, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

“Treasury remains committed to ensuring that the U.S. financial system and American investors are not supporting these activities,” he stated.

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Among the eight firms is major drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd., the dominant player among the world’s commercial drone manufacturers with an estimated 70% of global market. The company also provides drones to Chinese police in Xinjiang that that are used against Uyghurs. The police agency there was sanctioned in July 2020 for human rights abuses.

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A DJI spokesman had no comment on the Treasury action but noted a previous response last year to similar action by the Commerce Department.

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