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McCaul, Meeks trigger sanctions review for Chinese firm

Hikvision allegedly enables Chinese human rights violations against Uyghurs

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, right and ranking Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., triggered the review of Hikvision.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, right and ranking Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., triggered the review of Hikvision. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said they triggered a requirement that the Biden administration determine within four months whether a Chinese surveillance company should be sanctioned for human rights violations against ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang province.

Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and ranking member Gregory W. Meeks, D-N.Y., last week used their positions to trigger a reporting requirement under the 2016 law known as the Global Magnitsky sanctions law about whether Chinese firm Hikvision meets the legal standards for blacklisting under the law. As heads of a congressional foreign affairs panel, McCaul and Meeks can trigger the reporting requirement. The law authorizes the president to impose sanctions on foreign individuals and entities found to have engaged in notable acts of corruption and human rights violations. 

“We request that the president make a determination and authorize sanctions pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act against Hikvision,” McCaul and Meeks said in a letter last week to President Joe Biden arguing the Chinese government-backed firm, which manufactures surveillance camera equipment, has a “clear track record in enabling international recognized human rights violations in Xinjiang.”

“In a 2022 report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights authoritatively determined that the [Chinese government] has committed serious human rights violations against the Uyghur population of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang),” McCaul and Meeks wrote. “These human rights violations include arbitrary and discriminatory imprisonment of ethnic Uyghurs and Muslim minorities, torture and ill-treatment, interrogations, forced sterilizations, and repression of cultural, linguistic, and religious expression.”

Hikvision has previously been subject to U.S. government trade restrictions.

The Commerce Department placed the company on its Entity List in response to Hikvision’s role in facilitating Beijing’s repressive campaign against Muslims in Xinjiang, which the State Department has determined constitutes genocide. Foreign companies placed on the Entity List are deemed to constitute a national security concern and are thus supposed to be subject to strict export control license requirements.

The Federal Communications Commission last November adopted rules banning Hikvision communications equipment from import or sale in the U.S. due to national security concerns.

The FCC might lift its hold on the sale of Hikvision products if the firm can provide adequate assurances its equipment won’t be “marketed or sold for public safety purposes, government facilities, critical infrastructure, or other national security purposes,” according to a January issue brief by the Congressional Research Service.

Other lawmakers have also tried to force sanctions on Hikvision. Late last year, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. August Pfluger, R-Texas, introduced measures in the Senate and House that would require the administration to issue a finding on whether Hikvision should be sanctioned under either the Global Magnitsky law or a 2020 law on Uyghur human rights.

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