US sanctions Myanmar and China over technology-enabled human rights abuse
US sanctions Myanmar and China over technology-enabled human rights abuse

The US Department of the Treasury Friday sanctioned 15 people and 10 entities under new executive orders in a move denouncing human rights abuses. The Department also restricted investments in a Chinese company that uses surveillance technology.

Leaders of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of China have been sanctioned because of alleged human rights abuses. The Treasury Department expressed particular concern over the XUAR’s use of artificial intelligence to record biometric data about “millions of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.” Such data is used to inform decisions about who is detained based on perceived threat risk. As a result of the sanctions, the region’s leaders will be prohibited from entering the US.

SenseTime, a company that developed sophisticated facial recognition technology that targets Uyghurs, was also specifically sanctioned for its technology-enabled abuse of human rights. Alongside these groups were the Bangladesh-based Rapid Action Battalion and its leaders, who were also sanctioned in for allegations of torture, illegal kidnappings, and extra-judicial killings.

Other sanctioned people and entities include those associated with forced labor which the Treasury Department alleges has been used to create a “fundamentally unfair justice system” and a generation of international currency which was used to fund illegal weapons in North Korea. Companies and individuals associated with the armed forces in Myanmar also received sanctions.

The sanctions are pursuant to Executive Order 13818, Executive Order 13959, Executive Order 13687, Executive Order 13722, and Executive Order 14014. The Executive Orders restrict the ability to trade with and invest in entities related to the governments of China, North Korea, and Myanmar. The sanctions block all property, interests in the property, and ownership of entities controlled by those the sanctions attach to.

The Treasury Department also said in a statement:

Technology is a key tool used to advance the exercise of freedom of expression and the protection of other human rights globally. However, authoritarian states misuse technology to facilitate human rights abuse and repression, target members of racial and ethnic minority groups, manipulate information, and spread disinformation.

They also reported that technology-enabled human rights abuses have become more common as of late and encouraged democratic nations to denounce these abusive applications of technology.

The sanctions are the latest of a number of recent moves by the US to take action against international human rights abuses and denounce the Myanmar coup.