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8 Oct, 2019 15:03

US blacklists major Chinese AI startups 2 days ahead of trade talks

US blacklists major Chinese AI startups 2 days ahead of trade talks

Washington has added China’s top artificial intelligence startups to its blacklist, citing Beijing’s mistreatment of Muslim minorities. The move comes ahead of high-level trade talks in Washington on October 10.

The new measures target eight tech companies, including three of China's biggest AI startups — SenseTime, Megvii, and Yitu. All three are well-known for their work in facial recognition software. Video surveillance firm Hikvision, with a market value of about $42 billion, is also on the list, as well as speech recognition firm iFlytek Co, surveillance equipment maker Zhejiang Dahua Technology and a digital forensics and cybersecurity company Meiya Pico. Last but not least is Yixin Science and Technology, which, according to Bloomberg, provides big data analytics to China's police force. Apart from these tech firms, 20 Chinese public security bureaus have also been blacklisted.

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All the 28 “entities” are now prohibited from purchasing technical parts from US companies without applying for Washington’s official approval, which resembles the measure introduced by the US government earlier this year to limit cooperation of American firms with Huawei Technologies. In August, the US banned federal purchases of telecommunications equipment from Huawei along with four other Chinese companies, claiming they posed a threat to US national security interests as spies of the Chinese communist party. Huawei has repeatedly denied the allegations and has filed a lawsuit against the US government's restrictions.

The US authorities justified its move by claiming that the “entities” blacklisted “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 Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.

The US government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has said, commenting on the newly introduced measures.

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Responding to the new restrictions, Beijing said it recommends Washington stop interfering in its internal affairs. At a media briefing on Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China will continue to take resolute measures in defending its sovereign security, as cited by Reuters.

The US move comes only two days ahead of high-level trade talks regarding the ongoing trade and tariff war with China, making it ever harder to predict the outcome of these talks.

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