US Targets Chinese Genomics Company Over Human Rights Charges

US Targets Chinese Genomics Company Over Human Rights Charges

The Lede: The U.S. has placed restrictions on the Chinese genetics analysis company BGI Group due to security, technology, and human rights concerns in a recent wave of government trade policies.

What we Know:

  • According to the Commerce Department, two units of BGI were potentially contributing to the Chinese government’s surveillance apparatus, citing human rights groups that claim that the company has been trying to create a database of genetic samples from Muslims and minority groups in the country.
  • The U.S. has declared that BGI’s genetic analysis has had a significant hand in the repression of minorities and that their technologies pose a serious risk of diversion to military programs.
  • The two units, BGI Research and BGI Tech Solutions were added to a list that requires them to obtain permission from the U.S. government to acquire sensitive American technology.

The Background: The Department of Commerce currently maintains an "entity list" where it identifies companies the believe to be involved in human rights violations or act against U.S. security interests, restricting their access to U.S. markets. BGI, formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute, previously denied accusations that it was involved in technology that was used for the surveillance of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups in northwest China. Washington largely wants to reduce commercial interaction with China as it perceives a threat of Chinese civilian companies being used to obtain processor chips, aerospace, and weapons technologies. China has said that the increasing measures placed on their companies are efforts to stifle commercial competition in various industries.


  • Foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning has accused the U.S. of "fabricating excuses to suppress Chinese companies." She has urged the U.S. to "abandon ideological prejudice" and to "stop abusing various excuses to unreasonably suppress Chinese enterprises." Mao insists that China strives to "firmly safeguard the legitimate rights" of Chinese companies."
  • “BGI Group does not condone and would never be involved in any human rights abuses.” - BGI Group statement.

Takeaways and Outcomes:

  • Seventeen other Chinese companies were also placed under these restrictions for their role in China’s military modernization, weapons development by Iran and Pakistan, and human rights abuses in Myanmar.
  • Beijing has not declared any plans to retaliate or take action in response to the new restrictions on BGI Group and others.
  • Beijing also maintains its own list of foreign companies that are perceived to potentially endanger China’s national sovereignty, security, or development interests including American defense technology companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Technologies Corp. due to their weapons supply delivery to Taiwan. Both companies are barred from importing goods or making new investments in China.
  • These measures come against the backdrop of increasing American policy efforts to throttle China’s access to key U.S. technological resources and increasing political tensions between the two countries.