(In March 2 story, corrects first and second paragraphs to show the addition of one unit of BGI Genomics to the list and three total units of BGI Group)
By Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson
(Reuters) -The Biden administration on Thursday added 37 companies to a trade blacklist, including a unit of Chinese genetics company BGI Genomics Co Ltd. and Chinese cloud computing firm Inspur, in a move that promises to further ratchet up tensions with Beijing.
The Commerce Department, which oversees export controls, added BGI Tech Solutions (Hongkong), as well as BGI Research and Forensic Genomics International, which belong to BGI Group, the parent of BGI Genomics Co Ltd, over allegations that the units pose a “significant risk” to contributing to Chinese government surveillance.
“The actions of these entities concerning the collection and analysis of genetic data present a significant risk of diversion to China’s military programs,” it said.
Reuters previously reported BGI was collecting genetic data from millions of women for sweeping research on the traits of populations, and collaborates with China’s military.
The Commerce Department accused Inspur of acquiring and attempting to acquire U.S. goods to support China’s military modernization efforts.
The companies and the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Commerce added 26 other Chinese entities to the list – which makes it hard for targeted companies to receive shipments of U.S. goods from suppliers.
The additions included several entities Commerce said were supplying or attempting to supply a sanctioned entity in Iran, and three firms in Russia, Belarus and Taiwan that Commerce said were contributing to Russia’s military.
It also targeted companies in China and Myanmar for violations of human rights, and went after companies in China and Pakistan for contributing to ballistic missile programs of concern, including Pakistan’s.
“When we identify entities that pose a national security or foreign policy concern for the United States, we add them to the Entity List to ensure we can scrutinize their transactions,” Assistant Commerce Secretary Thea Kendler said in a statement.
The latest additions to the trade black list are likely to further escalate ill will between Washington and Beijing, which have been locked in a technology war for years.
Tensions have been especially high since the Biden administration last month shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon that had crossed a broad swath of the United States.
“We cannot allow our adversaries to misuse and abuse technology to commit human rights abuses and other acts of oppression,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod. “That’s why we’re committed to preventing bad actors from siphoning off our technology. We will take an all-tools approach to combat this threat.”
In 2020, the Commerce Department added two units of BGI Group, the world’s largest genomics company, to its economic blacklist over allegations it conducted genetic analyses used to further the repression of China’s minority Uyghurs.
Beijing has denied wrongdoing. BGI denied allegations of wrongdoing at the time.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and David Shepardson; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Costas Pitas and Kirsty Needham; Editing by Leslie Adler, Deepa Babington and Lincoln Feast)