China trade war continues: US blacklists key Apple supplier

Accused by the Americans of forced-labour abuses against Muslims in western China, O-Film is a key Apple supplier, and one of the latest Chinese firms to be blacklisted.

The US-China trade wars continue to rumble on, with another connection between the two economies disrupted last month and supply chains shaken up once more as Washington blacklisted a key Apple supplier over alleged abuses against China's Uyghur Muslim minority.

O-Film Group, a major producer of smart device cameras, fingerprint readers and touch sensing equipment, was one of 11 Chinese firms added to the US Commerce Department's Entity List on 20 July. The Shenzhen-listed company is a prominent part of some significant consumer electronics and automotive supply chains: O-Film supplies many other American companies apart from Apple, including Microsoft, HP, Dell, General Motors and Amazon. It also has major global firms outside the US on its client list, including Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Sony.

The US Commerce authorities say that the 11 new firms, including O-Film, have been added to the Entity List because they are "implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of the People's Republic of China's (PRC) campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, involuntary collection of biometric data, and genetic analyses targeted at Muslim minority groups from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region".

Other Chinese tech companies have previously been blacklisted on related grounds. Several prominent manufacturers of surveillance equipment and technologies designed to exploit surveillance data, including well-known globally active firm Hikvision, were listed late last year. This was presented as an effort to rein in the burgeoning Chinese surveillance panopticon in Xinjiang, where cameras on every street corner can reportedly pick out members of the Uyghur ethnic group and target them for detention and interrogation by security forces. This can easily mean the targeted individual disappearing into an extra-judicial "re-education" facility; or perhaps nowadays, becoming a forced labourer in a tech factory.

Another way to view the listings, of course, is as a US effort to prevent China acquiring its technologies and competing with its industries.

"Beijing actively promotes the reprehensible practice of forced labor and abusive DNA collection and analysis schemes to repress its citizens," commented US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, announcing the blacklist extension. "This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party's despicable offensive against defenseless Muslim minority populations."


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