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Illustration by Security Management; iStock

U.S. Considers Extreme Sanctions Against Hikvision

The United States is considering levying unprecedented sanctions on Chinese video surveillance company Hikvision.

“The Biden Administration is weighing whether to add the maker of cameras and surveillance systems to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, according to people familiar with the situation,” Bloomberg reported.

The sanctions, which would be issued by the U.S. Department of Treasury, come after the United States accused Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. (Hikvision) of enabling human rights abuses, according to TechCrunch.

The debate on whether to include Hikvision on the list was first reported by the Financial Times, with four sources who were described as familiar with the talks about the matter.

The company is no stranger to U.S. trade restrictions. Hikvision, along with seven other Chinese technology firms, was placed on the U.S. Entity List in 2019 on the list for “its role in enabling human rights violations among Muslim minority groups in China, including the Uyghurs.” Inclusion on the Entity List mandates that listed companies or organizations must apply for special licenses to buy items from U.S. suppliers.

More recently, in June 2021, the Biden Administration sanctioned Hikvision and several other Chinese organizations, barring people in the United States from investing in those companies. “In addition, I find that the use of Chinese surveillance technology outside the [People’s Republic of China] and the development or use of Chinese surveillance technology to facilitate repression or serious human rights abuse constitute unusual and extraordinary threats…to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” President Joe Biden wrote.

Despite previous sanctions, if Hikvision is included on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List—which has previously listed terrorists, drug traffickers, and those accused of supporting such operations—it would have “far-reaching consequences,” the Financial Times reported. Essentially, any companies, financial establishments, and governments that do business with Hikvision would be violating U.S. sanctions. U.S. companies, organizations, and citizens would be banned from business dealings or trading with Hikvision, and any of the company’s assets in the United States would be frozen.

If the sanction goes through, it is expected to increase tensions between the United States and China.

Yahoo! Finance reported that a spokesman from China’s Foreign Ministry claimed the U.S. was using human rights allegations “as an excuse, and abuse state power and its domestic law to hobble Chinese companies.”