WASHINGTON/SHANGHAI - The U.S. government widened its trade blacklist to include some of China's top artificial intelligence startups, punishing Beijing for its treatment of Muslim minorities and ratcheting up tensions ahead of high-level trade talks in Washington this week.
The decision, which drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, targets 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group Ltd and Megvii Technology Ltd. The action bars the firms from buying components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval - a potentially crippling move for some of them.
U.S. officials said the action was not tied to this week's resumption of trade talks with China, but it signals no let-up in U.S. President Donald Trump's hard-line stance as the world's two biggest economies seek to end their 15-month trade war.
"Punishing Hikvision, despite these engagements, will deter global companies from communicating with the U.S. government, hurt Hikvision's U.S. businesses partners and negatively impact the U.S. economy," the company added.
The blacklisting of Huawei has hurt many of its U.S. suppliers that depended on the world's largest telecommunications company for revenue and made it difficult for Huawei to sell new products.
SenseTime said in a statement it was deeply disappointed by the U.S. move, that it abides by all relevant laws of the jurisdictions in which its operates and that it has been actively developing an AI code of ethics to ensure its technologies are used responsibly.
Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services and has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government's restrictions.