As U.S. Takes Aim at Chinese Tech Firms, Trump Signals a Strategy Shift – The New York Times

“This is an important first step in making some of the companies that have benefited the most from the re-education system in Xinjiang feel the consequences of their actions,” said Darren Byler, an anthropologist at the University of Washington who studies the plight of the Uighurs.

He said the move signaled that abuse of minority groups in Xinjiang “is real and justifies a political and economic response.”

It is also a potentially groundbreaking use of a powerful tool that the American government typically uses against terrorists. The Chinese companies and police departments were placed on what is called an entity list, which forbids them to buy sensitive American exports unless Washington grants American companies specific permission to sell to them.

Use of the entity list over a human rights issue may be a first, said Julian Ku, a professor of constitutional and international law at Hofstra University.

“As far as I know, it was the first time Commerce explicitly cited human rights as a foreign policy interest of the U.S. for purposes of export controls,” he said, referring to the Department of Commerce, which manages the entity lists. “This is not an implausible reading of the regulations, but it is new and has potentially very broad applicability.”

Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said in a briefing on Tuesday that the White House was using human rights as an excuse to punish Chinese companies. Many of the companies offer a wide array of products outside of surveillance, including medical tools that diagnose tumors, automatic translation services and even social media filters that slim the waist.

“This goes against the basic principles of international relations, it interferes in China’s internal affairs and it goes against China’s national security,” he said, adding, “There is no human rights issue in Xinjiang.”

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