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US imposes sweeping sanctions on China and world’s worst tyrannies

Demonstrations in Britain against China's oppression of minorities have raised Beijing's hackles. Photo: Getty
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The United States has imposed extensive human rights-related sanctions on dozens of people and entities tied to China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh, also adding Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime Group to an investment blacklist.

Canada and the United Kingdom joined the US on Friday in imposing sanctions related to human rights abuses in Myanmar, while Washington also imposed the first new sanctions on North Korea under President Joe Biden’s administration and targeted Myanmar military entities, among others, in action marking Human Rights Day.

“Our actions today, particularly those in partnership with the United Kingdom and Canada, send a message that democracies around the world will act against those who abuse the power of the state to inflict suffering and repression,” Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement.

China’s embassy in Washington denounced the US move as “serious interference in China’s internal affairs” and a “severe violation of basic norms governing international relations.”

Embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said it would do “grave harm to China-US relations” and urged Washington to rescind the decision.

The North Korean mission at the United Nations and the Washington embassies of Myanmar and Bangladesh did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Biden’s challenge

The measures are the latest in a raft of sanctions timed to coincide with Biden’s two-day virtual Summit for Democracy, where he announced initiatives to bolster democracy around the world and support for pro-democracy legislation in the US.

Biden on Friday said commitments made by some of the more than 100 world leaders at the summit would push back against rising autocracy around the world, fight corruption and promote human rights.

“This is going to help seed fertile ground for democracy to bloom around the world,” he said in a speech closing the summit.

The Treasury on Friday added Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime to a list of “Chinese military-industrial complex companies,” accusing it of having developed facial recognition programs that can determine a target’s ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uyghurs.

As a result, the company will fall under an investment banfor US investors. SenseTime is close to selling 1.5 billion shares in an initial public offering (IPO).

After news of the Treasury restrictions earlier this week, the company began discussing the fate of the planned $US767 million ($A1.1 billion) offering with Hong Kong’s stock exchange, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.

UN experts and rights groups estimate more than a million people, mainly Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in China’s far-west region of Xinjiang.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang, but the US government and many rights groups say Beijing is carrying out genocide there.

-AAP