US puts drone maker DJI and seven other Chinese companies on investment blocklist

The US government will place eight Chinese companies including drone manufacturer DJI on an investment blocklist for alleged involvement in surveillance of Uyghur Muslims, the Financial Times has reported. The firms will reportedly be put on the Treasure department’s “Chinese military-industrial complex companies” list on Tuesday, meaning US citizens will be barred from making any investments.

DJI is already on the Department of Commerce’s Entity list, meaning American companies can’t sell it components unless they have a license. At the time, the government said it was among companies that “enabled wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance.” However, unlike products from Huawei and others, DJI drones are have not been banned for sale in the US.

The latest moves are part of an effort by US President Joe Biden to sanction China for repression of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. Others that will be added to the list include cloud computing firms and facial recognition companies that operate in Xinjiang.

Yesterday, the US House and Senate passed a bill that would ban imports from Xinjiang, unless companies could prove they were not made using forced labor. It’s set for a vote in the upper chamber of Congress prior to a holiday recess.

Xiaomi was placed on the same investment blocklist early in 2021. However, it fought the decision, saying that none of its principals were connected with the Chinese military and that a lack of US investment would lead to “immediate and irreparable harm.” In May, the government agreed to lift the ban.

In 2020, DJI commanded a massive 77 percent of the consumer drone market. Over the last two months, it has released a pair of key products, the large-sensor Mavic 3 drone and full-frame Ronin 4D cinema camera with a built-in gimbal and LiDAR focus system. A year ago, DJI said it had “done nothing to justify being placed on the Entity list,” and that “customers in America can continue to buy and use DJI products normally.”

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Engadget.

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