The United States on Friday imposed extensive human rights-related sanctions on dozens of people and entities tied to China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh, and added 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 abuse in Myanmar, while Washington also imposed the first new sanctions on North Korea under President Joe Biden’s administration and targeted Myanmar military entities, among others, in action marking Human Rights Day.
“Our actions today, particularly those in partnership with the United Kingdom and Canada, send a message that democracies around the world will act against those who abuse the power of the state to inflict suffering and repression,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in the statement.
The North Korean mission at the United Nations and the Chinese, Myanmar and Bangladesh embassies in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it 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 it will fall under an investment ban for U.S. investors.
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 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.
U.S. President Joe Biden gathered over 100 world leaders at a virtual summit this week and made a plea to bolster democracies around the world, calling safeguarding rights and freedoms in the face of rising authoritarianism the “defining challenge” of the current era.