Earlier this year in June, U.S. President Donald Trump signed a bill calling for sanctions on China over the repression of the Uyghur community in the Xinjiang region of the country. Building on this, on Tuesday, Democratic Representative Jim McGovern and Republican Senator Marco Rubio sent letters to Nvidia and Intel inquiring the two firms about the export of their technology to China.
Advanced computer chips from the two companies have allegedly been used by China to conduct mass surveillance on the Uyghurs. The letters were written to the chief executives of the firms. Intel and Nvidia and were asked whether they had any knowledge of the potential misuse of their computer chips to support surveillance activities conducted in the Xinjiang region and whether they took precautionary steps to ensure that their products were not used for human rights abuses or to compromise U.S. national security.
In reply, Intel spokesman William Moss said that the company does not tolerate its products being used to violate human rights. When Intel becomes aware of such a concern, it restricts or terminates business with third parties until it has confidence that its products are not used to commit such violations. Nvidia declined to comment.
The Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims, native to the Central Asian region. According to official figures, over 12 million people from the community live in the remote north-west region of Xinjiang in China. However, the UN has estimated that more than a million Uyghurs have been detained in camps. The U.S. State Department has accused Chinese officials of subjecting the community to torture, forced conversions, and cultural cleansing. China denies these allegations, stating that it provides vocational training that is necessary to tackle extremism in the alleged detention camps.