China is still buying American DNA equipment for Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region despite blocking

Police in the Chinese region of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region remain in the hundreds of thousands, despite warnings from the U.S. government that the sale of such technology could be used to enable human rights abuses in the region. I am buying an American DNA device worth dollars.

The U.S. government said DNA sequencers, test kits, and other products manufactured by U.S. companies to police in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region amid concerns that scientists and human rights groups could use tools to build systems. Has been trying to block the sale of Track people. In 2019, the Trump administration banned the sale of American products to most law enforcement agencies in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region unless the company obtains a license. And in 2020, Washington warned that companies selling biometric technology and other products to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region need to be aware of “reputation, economic and legal risks.”

However, the New York Times-reviewed Chinese government procurement documents and contracts have imprisoned more than one million residents, primarily Muslim Uighurs, for goods made by two American companies, Thermofisher and Promega. The camp shows that it continues to flow into the area where it is located. The sale is through a Chinese company that buys the product and resells it to the police in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

It’s not clear how the Chinese companies bought the equipment, and the document doesn’t show that neither American company sold directly to any of the Chinese companies. Still, experts say the fact that police in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region continue to acquire and use US-made DNA equipment raises questions about the company’s diligence as to where the product will end up.

Thermo Fisher said in a statement that it has a “multi-level purchasing process” designed to prevent the sale and shipment of personally identifiable products to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region authorities. The statement said it was using a network of authorized distributors who agreed to follow the process. Thermo Fisher said the distributors and users of the documents reviewed by the Times are not listed on the system.

Promega did not answer questions about the steps it takes to prevent its products from reaching police in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

In 2019, Thermo Fisher announced that it would stop selling to Xinjiang after conducting a “fact-specific assessment.” At the time, the company was scrutinized after reports that Chinese authorities were collecting DNA samples and other biometric data from millions of Uighurs.

The deal emphasizes how difficult it is for Washington to control how American technology is used by authoritarian governments that may use it for repression and surveillance. The issue, which affects various high-tech industries, is becoming more and more tense as Washington-Beijing relations have become cold over human rights and other concerns.

It is unknown how the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region police are using the product. In the United States, law enforcement agencies use similar technology to solve crimes, but some states are working to limit these practices.

DNA sequencers can be used to advance research on Covid-19 and cancer and to immunize prisoners. However, according to human rights activists, police can also abuse for surveillance. Uighur Gulbahar Hatiwaji, who was detained in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region from 2017 to 2019, said blood was drawn about five to six times while she was in custody.

Hatiwaji said police also scanned her face and irises and recorded her voice. In another example, she said medical workers worked from morning till night to prick the fingers of 250 detainees trapped in a camp in the northern city of Karamay, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. No one told them what it was for.

“We didn’t have the right to ask,” said Hatiwaji, 54, who is currently in exile in France. “No matter what they asked us to do, we had to obey.”

In February 2019, Waltham, Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher announced that it would stop selling products to the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. This decision is in line with the company’s Code of Ethics. However, 10 Chinese contracts and government procurement documents reviewed by The Times show that Thermo Fisher products will continue to end in the region.

Companies operating in countries as large as China can have a hard time unraveling their supply chains, and it can be difficult to find out if a third-party supplier sells to another company. Legal experts say companies selling in China need to scrutinize potential third-party transactions, especially given the risks in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Senator Marco Rubio, who frequently criticizes U.S. companies for dealing with police in Xinjiang Uygur, said, “U.S.-based companies are using surveillance devices anywhere in China, especially in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region security forces. No other technology should be sold. “

“The Biden administration needs to be free to use all tools, including licensing requirements and export controls, to end the collusion of U.S.-based companies against crimes against humanity,” Rubio said in a Times statement. There is. “

In May, Rubio co-signed a bill to strengthen export control laws that prevent US companies from allowing human rights abuses. On Thursday, Senators Tim Kaine and Ed Markey presided over a hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Government procurement documents and contracts show that some Chinese companies sold at least $ 521,165 worth of thermofisher equipment to eight public security agencies in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region from May 2019 to June 2021. The value of Thermo Fisher’s products to police in Coke, the second largest city in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Police in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region have also signed four contracts with a Chinese company that sells DNA devices from Promega, a biotechnology company based in Madison, Wisconsin, that will continue to do business until last month. Most transactions, including products from other companies, do not clarify the value of Promega products.

Promega’s legal counsel, Daniel Goka, said the company does not operate in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. Customers or distributors there. “The company takes the obligation to comply with all applicable US government export control and sanctions requirements seriously,” Ghoca wrote in an email. “The company has robust procedures and controls to ensure compliance with such requirements.”

Eve Morrow, a frank critic of an American DNA company selling to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and a professor of engineering at the Ruben Catholic University in Belgium, said when he found several deals on a Chinese corporate bidding website last month, “absolutely. I was surprised. ” ..

“That is, a non-Chinese professor sat down at Google in the evening and found something like that,” Morrow said. “What was the process they took to prevent that from happening? They should have caught this much earlier than I did.”

The deal indicates that all but one of the Chinese companies involved in the transaction is based in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and authorities continue to order the construction of a new DNA database.

Surya Deva, an associate professor at City University of Hong Kong and a member of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights, said companies avoid liability even if their products are offered by third-party suppliers. He said he couldn’t. One way to be more vigilant, he suggested, was to insert a clause in the contract to clarify that the product could not be sold to police in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Human rights activists say that US law on this issue is outdated and that legislators last tried to prevent US companies from selling similar products to China in 1990. Ammunition to Chinese police following Beijing’s deadly crackdown on democratic protesters near Tiannanmen Square.

Rights groups say these sanctions need to be updated to include state-of-the-art technologies such as surveillance products, facial recognition devices and DNA devices.

Sophie Richardson, Director of China at Human Rights Watch, said: “But what I didn’t expect at the time was that 30 years later, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security didn’t want US-made handcuffs. I need a US-made DNA sequencer.”

China is still buying American DNA equipment for Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region despite blocking

Source link China is still buying American DNA equipment for Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region despite blocking

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