US Imposes Visa Curbs on Staff at Huawei, Chinese Tech Firms That Aid Human Rights Abuses

US Imposes Visa Curbs on Staff at Huawei, Chinese Tech Firms That Aid Human Rights Abuses
People wearing masks walk outside a Huawei store in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, on May 26, 2020. (HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Cathy He

The United States will impose visa restrictions on employees of China’s Huawei and other Chinese technology companies that aid human rights violations around the world, the State Department announced July 15.

The move, which could bar the individuals from entering the United States, is part of the Trump administration’s response to rights abuses by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It came a day after President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that would sanction Chinese officials and entities involved in suppressing freedoms in Hong Kong.

The United States also sanctioned several CCP officials last week over their roles in suppressing Uyghur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at a press briefing that the restrictions would apply to “certain employees” of Chinese companies that “provide material support to regimes engaging in human rights violations and abuses globally.”

Huawei and other Chinese tech firms have come under growing scrutiny in the United States and elsewhere over their risks to national security and their role in supporting the CCP’s rights abuses.

The department singled out Huawei, saying the company is “an arm of the CCP’s surveillance state that censors political dissidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang.”

A November report by an Australian think tank found that Huawei and Bytedance, the parent company of video app TikTok, facilitate the regime’s suppression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang by providing surveillance technology and other services to security agencies.

“Certain Huawei employees provide material support to the CCP regime that commits human rights abuses,” the department said in a statement.

The restrictions are applied under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows the U.S. secretary of state to refuse entry to those who “would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.”

The department didn’t specify which employees, nor what other companies would be affected; it didn’t immediately respond to queries by The Epoch Times about the measure. Huawei also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The administration last year blacklisted Huawei and its affiliates on national security grounds, and recently moved to limit its ability to buy global chips.
Meanwhile, Washington’s campaign to convince its allies to exclude the firm from their 5G rollouts appears to be gaining ground, with the United Kingdom being the latest country to ban Huawei from its 5G infrastructure.

Pompeo also said last week that the administration is considering banning Chinese social media apps, including TikTok. U.S. lawmakers have also raised security concerns over TikTok’s handling of user data, citing Chinese laws that require domestic companies “to support and cooperate with intelligence work controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.”

“Telecommunications companies around the world should consider themselves on notice: If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers,” the State Department said.

Since last October, the Commerce Department has put 36 Chinese public security bureaus and companies—including some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups and video surveillance company Hikvision—on its “entity list” over their roles in aiding the repression and surveillance of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

The designation bars U.S. firms from doing business with those firms, unless they obtain a special license from the department.

Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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