US blacklists China AI cos over minority concerns
The US is blacklisting a group of Chinese tech companies that develop facial recognition and other artificial intelligence technology that the US says is being used to repress China’s Muslim minority groups. A move on Monday by the US commerce department puts the companies on a so-called Entity List for acting contrary to American foreign policy interests.
The blacklist effectively bars US firms from selling technology to the Chinese companies without government approval. Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said in a written statement on Monday that the US government “will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China”. The blacklisted firms include Hikvision and Dahua, both of which are global providers of video surveillance technology. Hikvision said on Monday that it respects human rights and strongly opposes the Trump administration’s decision. The firm said it has spent a year trying to “clarify misunderstandings about the company and address their concerns,” and that this will hurt its US business partners.
Prominent Chinese AI firms such as Sense Time, Megvii and iFlytek are also on the list. Sense Time and Megvii are known for the development of computer vision technology that underpins facial recognition products, while iFlytek is known for its voice recognition and translation services. The companies are among 28 organisations added to the blacklist on Monday. Along with the tech companies, the commerce department’s filing targets local government agencies in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.
The filing said the listed groups have been implicated in “China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance” against Uighurs, Kazakhs and other predominantly Muslim minority groups. Geng Shuang, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said the US has no right to interfere in Xinjiang’s internal affairs and denied there are human rights issues in the region. “This kind of behaviour seriously violates the basic norms of international relations, interferes in China’s internal affairs, and harms China’s interests,” he said. “The Chinese side strongly deplores and opposes it.”
US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said move will ensure US technologies ‘are not used to repress defenceless minority populations’