(WASHINGTON) – The Biden administration has blacklisted and sanctioned dozens of Chinese government research institutes and private-sector technology companies, accusing them of militarizing the technology for use in the country and for abroad, the US departments of Commerce and Treasury said Thursday.
In particular, the United States warned that these entities were working as part of a broader Chinese government strategy to develop and deploy biotechnology, including “brain control weapons,” for possible offensive use and in as part of its crackdown on Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities. – a campaign that the United States has called genocide.
The sanctions are intended to prevent the export of American technology to these projects or to block their access to the American financial system.
“The scientific pursuit of biotechnology and medical innovation can save lives. Unfortunately, the PRC chooses to use these technologies to control its people and its crackdown on members of ethnic and religious minority groups, ”Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said, using an acronym for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.
“We cannot allow US products, technologies and software that support medical science and biotechnical innovation to be diverted to uses contrary to US national security,” she added in a statement. communicated.
A total of 12 Chinese research institutes and 22 Chinese technology companies have been blacklisted by his agency and banned from any export or transfer of US technology except in limited cases with a license. The main one is the Chinese Academy of Military Medical Sciences and its 11 research institutes.
Together, they “use biotechnological processes to support Chinese military end-uses and end-users, including so-called brain control weapons,” the Commerce Department said in its public notice Thursday.
It’s unclear what kind of weapons might already exist, but Chinese military leaders have for years spoken of biotechnology as creating new “offensive capabilities,” including “brain control” weapons and “genetic attacks.” specific ethnicities ”.
“The orientation of Chinese research on these technologies is not unique. What is unique is their declared intention to turn their inventions into weapons, ”said retired Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Ganyard, former senior US diplomat in charge of military affairs.
According to Craig Singleton, a former American diplomat is now an adjunct researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank.
This could give China military and intelligence advances over the United States, by singleton, although it is not clear whether the Pentagon is developing similar weapons programs.
“Some of these technologies may not be easily mastered and could have disastrous second and third order consequences on civilian populations. China’s quest to militarize advanced technologies puts the whole world at risk of unintended and uncontrollable consequences, ”added Ganyard, an ABC News contributor.
For now, it appears that China has focused their alleged use against domestic targets, including Uyghurs in the country’s westernmost province, officially known as Xinjiang.
“Private companies in China’s defense and surveillance technology sectors are actively cooperating with government efforts to suppress members of ethnic and religious minority groups,” said Brian Nelson, senior Treasury Department official responsible for terrorism and intelligence financial.
The Treasury Department has named eight other private companies, cutting them off from the US financial system and threatening sanctions against those who do business with them, for working with authorities in Xinjiang.
This includes the development of facial recognition software, cloud computing, drones and GPS technologies, among other artificial intelligence tools.
“One such AI software could recognize people as part of the Uyghur ethnic minority and send automated alarms to government authorities,” according to the Treasury, while another company helped “develop a transcription tool and translation for the Uyghur language to enable authorities to scan electronic devices. “
It is estimated that between one and nearly two million Uyghurs and other minorities, such as the Kazakhs, have been held in mass “re-education” camps where they are used as forced labor and learn propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party. .
In addition, independent researchers, Uyghur activists and the US government have accused China of a mass sterilization campaign to bring down Uyghur birth rates, which have fallen sharply in recent years.
While the majority of the companies on the blacklist have been named because of their links to the so-called “civil-military fusion strategy”, where civilian fields like medicine and biotechnology are said to be militarized to support the military , a handful have also been designated to export sensitive technologies. to Iran.
This strategy has alarmed U.S. officials in recent years, starting with the Trump administration, which has launched a strong whole-of-government effort to thwart it. This included the repeated deployment of that Commerce Department’s blacklist to ban U.S. exports to Chinese companies that the People’s Liberation Army could then gain access to.
The Biden administration has continued this policy and expanded it – announcing last week at the Biden Democracy Summit a small group of countries determined to block exports of similar technology to China, including the United Kingdom, the France and Australia.
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