US President Joe Biden ’s administration imposed economic sanctions on the Chinese artificial intelligence company SenseTime Group and two senior government officials in far-west Xinjiang over alleged human rights abuses in the region, the Treasury Department announced on Friday. The move has reportedly disrupted the company’s plans to sell shares in an initial public offering after it was trimmed by about half earlier this week. “Treasury is using its tools to expose and hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights abuse,” said Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, identifying SenseTime as being responsible for “human rights abuse enabled by the malign use of technology”. The sanctions add to the administration’s previous moves to crack down on Chinese corporations and officials seen as violating the rights of Uygurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang , further entrenching Biden’s hardline stance on Beijing almost one year into his presidency. The Treasury Department added SenseTime to the administration’s investment blacklist, which blocks Americans from buying shares of the company’s stock. The move comes just as the company has been preparing to file a US$768 million initial public offering on the Hong Kong stock exchange, which now appears delayed because of Washington’s move, according to The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News. Why are China’s policymakers putting ‘stability’ above all else in 2022? “SenseTime 100 per cent owns Shenzhen Sensetime Technology Co. Ltd., which has developed facial recognition programs that can determine a target’s ethnicity, with a particular focus on identifying ethnic Uygurs,” the department said. “When applying for patent applications, Shenzhen Sensetime Technology Co. Ltd. has highlighted its ability to identify Uygurs wearing beards, sunglasses, and masks.” The Treasury Department also sanctioned two officials in Xinjiang : Shohrat Zakir, who served as chairman of the Xinjiang regional government from at least 2018 until 2021, according to the department, and Erken Tuniyaz, the current acting chair and former vice-chairman under Zakir. Both men are ethnic Uygurs. “During their tenures, more than one million Uygurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups have been detained in Xinjiang,” the department said. The sanctions against Zakir and Tuniyaz – issued under the authority of the Global Magnitsky Act – effectively block them from the US financial system. They are also banned from receiving visas to enter the US. Adeyemo noted that the action was timed to coincide with International Human Rights Day, which commemorates the anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The moves announced Friday add to a growing list of Chinese entities and officials that have been targeted with the same Magnitsky sanctions over Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang. That list includes the quasi-military Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, which controls huge parts of the Xinjiang economy; the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau; and Chen Quanguo , the regional Communist Party chief. Chinese tech companies had already been coming under intense scrutiny from the Biden administration and the Donald Trump administration before it over their alleged roles in helping Beijing carry out its policies in Xinjiang. Xinjiang’s solar industry needs a rare form of quartz — and the US is selling Rights groups, analysts and the US government have expressed alarm that cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence, facial recognition and other biometric tools have been used to track and monitor Uygurs and other minority groups in the far-west Xinjiang region, where Washington accuses Beijing of committing a genocide. “The mass detention of Uygurs is part of an effort by PRC authorities to use detentions and data-driven surveillance to create a police state in the Xinjiang region,” the Treasury Department said. Beijing denies all accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and says its policies are helping to lift the population out of poverty and counter religious “extremism”. Liu Pengyu, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said the sanctions constituted “grave harm to China-US relations”. “Xinjiang-related issues are never about human rights, ethnicity or religion,” he said in a statement. “Xinjiang affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs.” “We urge the US to immediately rescind its wrong decision and stop making any remarks or moves that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interests,” Liu added. US cotton machinery sales to Xinjiang skyrocket ahead of sanctions Other Chinese tech companies, including the surveillance firm Hikvision and the drone manufacturer DJI, were previously added to the Commerce Department’s “entity list”, which effectively stops US firms from selling any equipment or supplies to them. Last month, Biden signed a new law that blocks a number of Chinese tech companies deemed a national security risk to the US from obtaining new equipment licenses from US telecommunications regulators. And SenseTime is now one of dozens of Chinese companies subject to the administration’s investments ban, which targets companies that the administration says are part of China’s “military-industrial complex”. The ban was first enacted under an executive order last year during the Trump administration, and was expanded in June by Biden. “Abuse of technologies, like the exploitation of data for intrusive surveillance, is on the rise and threatens the security of all people,” the Treasury Department said. “It is therefore critically important that the United States and other democracies around the world take a firm stance against these repressive activities.” SenseTime did not immediately respond to a request for comment.