The United States imposed broad human rights sanctions on dozens of people and entities linked to China, Myanmar, North Korea, and Bangladesh on Friday, as well as adding the Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime Group to an investment blacklist.
Canada and the United Kingdom joined the United States in imposing sanctions related to human rights violations in Myanmar, while the United States also imposed the first new sanctions on North Korea under President Joe Biden’s administration and targeted Myanmar military entities, among others, in observance of Human Rights Day.
“Our actions today, particularly those undertaken in collaboration with the United Kingdom and Canada, send a message that democracies around the world will take action against those who abuse the power of the state to inflict suffering and repression,” said Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo in a statement.
North Korea’s UN mission, as well as China’s, Myanmar’s, and Bangladesh’s embassies in Washington, did not immediately reply to calls for comment.
This week, Biden convened over 100 international leaders for a virtual summit to push for the strengthening of democracies throughout the world, calling the protection of rights and freedoms in the face of growing authoritarianism the “defining issue” of the contemporary period. To commemorate the meeting, the US Treasury Department has imposed a series of sanctions this week.
The Treasury on Friday added Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime to a list of “Chinese military-industrial complex companies,” accusing it of having developed facial recognition programs that can determine a target’s ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs.
As a result the company will fall under an investment ban for U.S. investors. SenseTime is close to selling 1.5 billion shares in an initial public offering (IPO). After news of the Treasury restrictions earlier this week, the company began discussing the fate of the planned $767 million offering with Hong Kong’s stock exchange, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
U.N. experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in China’s far-west region of Xinjiang.
China denies abuses in Xinjiang, but the U.S. government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.
The Treasury said it was imposing sanctions on two Myanmar military entities and an organization that provides reserves for the military. The Directorate of Defense Industries, one of the entities targeted, makes weapons for the military and police that have been used in a brutal crackdown on opponents of the military’s Feb. 1 coup.
The Treasury also targeted four regional chief ministers, including Myo Swe Win, who heads the junta’s administration in the Bago region where the Treasury said at least 82 people were killed in a single day in April.
Canada imposed sanctions against four entities affiliated with the Myanmar military government, while the United Kingdom imposed fresh sanctions against the military.
Myanmar was plunged into crisis when the military overthrew leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government on Feb. 1, triggering daily protests in towns and cities and fighting in borderlands between the military and ethnic minority insurgents.
Junta forces seeking to crush opposition have killed more than 1,300 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.
The Treasury also blacklisted North Korea’s Central Public Prosecutors Office had been designated, along with the former minister of social security and recently assigned Minister of People’s Armed Forces Ri Yong Gil, as well as a Russian university for facilitating the export of workers from North Korea.
North Korea has long sought a lifting of punishing U.S. and international sanctions imposed over its weapons programs and has denounced U.S. criticism of its human rights record as evidence of a hostile policy against it.
The Biden administration has repeatedly called on North Korea to engage in dialogue over its nuclear and missiles programs, without success.
The U.S. State Department on Friday also barred 12 people from traveling to the United States, including officials in China, Belarus and Sri Lanka.