In a move that could inflame tensions with Beijing at a pivotal juncture in the trade talks, the US Commerce department blacklisted Chinese surveillance giant Hikvision on Monday.
In total, 28 Chinese public security bureaus and companies were blackballed by the US. The move is a rebuke of China’s human rights record and specifically, Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs.
This was months in the making. Just a week after Trump blacklisted Huawei in May, reports indicated Hikvision and other surveillance companies could be next. Just as the US rolled out the “national security” excuse to justify the Huawei move, a ban on Hikvision and its smaller rival Dahua, would come pre-packaged with a lot of high-minded rhetoric about Beijing’s systematic disregard for human rights and China’s repressive tactics in Xinjiang.
In short, Trump planned to claim that his administration was taking the initiative when it comes to ridiculing China’s efforts to create what amounts to a police state utilizing the type of surveillance technology that Hikvision develops.
That Trump’s concern for “human rights” seems to wax and wane with the ebb and flow of the trade war is just a coincidence, apparently.
Over the summer, Mike Pence was scheduled to deliver what was variously billed as a game-changing foreign policy speech. In it, the vice president would decry China’s human rights record and help lay the groundwork for the blacklisting of the country’s surveillance industry. That speech was delayed multiple times as Trump sought to strike a trade truce with Xi in June following a sharp May selloff in US equities.
Included in the list of companies and agencies blacklisted by the US on Monday are Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region Peoples Government Public Security Bureau, 19 subordinate agencies and eight commercial firms including Zhejiang Dahua Technology, IFLYTEK Co, Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co and Yixin Science and Technology Co.
“These entities 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”, Commerce said Monday, in a federal register notice.
Shares of Dahua, Meiya Pico and IFLYTEK were routed on May 23 when news of the impending US crackdown first hit.
Obviously, the timing leaves something to be desired. This comes on the eve of principal-level trade talks between Liu He, Bob Lighthizer and Steve Mnuchin, and appears to be a last-minute effort to secure leverage.