China has said it will take “necessary measures” to respond to the US blacklisting of Chinese companies over their alleged role in abuses of Uighur people and other Muslim ethnic minorities.
The Commerce Ministry said the US move constituted an “unreasonable suppression of Chinese enterprises and a serious breach of international economic and trade rules”.
China will “take necessary measures to firmly safeguard Chinese companies’ legitimate rights and interests”, the ministry’s statement said.
No details were given, but China has denied allegations of arbitrary detention and forced labour in the far western region of Xinjiang and has increasingly responded to sanctions against companies and officials with its own bans on visas and financial links.
The US Commerce Department said in a statement on Friday that the electronics and technology firms and other businesses helped enable “Beijing’s campaign of repression, mass detention and high-technology surveillance” against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
The penalties prohibit Americans from selling equipment or other goods to the firms.
The United States has stepped up financial and trade penalties over China’s treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, along with its crackdown on democracy in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong.
Since 2017, the Chinese government has detained a million or more people in Xinjiang.
Critics accuse China of operating forced labour camps and carrying out torture and coerced sterilisation as it allegedly seeks to assimilate Muslim ethnic minority groups.
The US Commerce Department said 14 companies were added to its Entity List over their dealings in Xinjiang, and another five for aiding China’s armed forces.
“The Department of Commerce remains firmly committed to taking strong, decisive action to target entities that are enabling human rights abuses in Xinjiang or that use US technology to fuel China’s destabilising military modernisation efforts,” commerce secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement posted on the department’s website.