China signaled it would hit back after the Trump administration placed eight of the country's technology giants on a blacklist over alleged human rights violations against Muslim minorities.
Asked Tuesday whether China would retaliate over the blacklist, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters "stay tuned." He also denied that the government abused human rights in the far west region of Xinjiang.
"We urge the U.S. side to immediately correct its mistake, withdraw the relevant decision and stop interfering in China's internal affairs," Mr. Geng said in Beijing. "China will continue to take firm and forceful measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests."
The Trump administration's move, which was announced after U.S. markets closed, came on the same day negotiators from the two sides began working-level preparations for high-level talks due to begin Thursday in Washington. A U.S. Commerce Department spokesman said the "action is unrelated to the trade negotiations," and China confirmed Vice Premier Liu He would lead the delegation as planned.
U.S. equity-index futures fell, reversing an earlier gain, while European stocks slipped to snap a two-day advance, ahead of high-level trade talks between America and China this week. U.S. futures fell after China said it strongly opposed the American decision to blacklist some of its technology firms. Equity benchmarks across Asia rose earlier as trading showed little concern about ongoing unrest in Hong Kong.
The blacklist, first reported by Reuters, takes President Donald Trump's economic war against China in a new direction, marking the first time his administration has cited human rights as a reason for action. Past moves to blacklist companies such as Huawei Technologies Co. have been taken on national security grounds.
The companies on the blacklist include two video surveillance companies — Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co. — that by some accounts control as much as a third of the global market for video surveillance and have cameras all over the world.
Also targeted were SenseTime Group — the world's most valuable artificial intelligence startup — and fellow AI giant Megvii Technology, which is said to be aiming to raise up to $1 billion in a Hong Kong initial public offering. Backed by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, the pair are at the forefront of China's ambition to dominate AI in coming years.
Entities on the list are prohibited from doing business with American companies without being granted a U.S. government license, although some have maintained relationships with banned companies through international subsidiaries. Hikvision and Dahua were suspended from trading Tuesday, but iFlytek Co. — one of the eight singled out — slid 2.7% in Shenzhen.
"Specifically, these entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China's campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups" in Xinjiang, the U.S. Commerce Department said in a federal register notice published Monday.
The foreign ministry's Mr. Geng accused the U.S. of having "sinister intentions." "The measures taken by China to eliminate extremism from the roots are fully in line with Chinese law and international practice," he said.
SenseTime and Dahua weren't immediately available for comment outside of normal business hours.
"Hikvision strongly opposes today's decision by the U.S. government and it will hamper efforts by global companies to improve human rights around the world," the company said in a statement. "Punishing Hikvision, despite these engagements, will deter global companies from communicating with the U.S. government, hurt Hikvision's U.S. businesses partners and negatively impact the U.S. economy."
Megvii said the U.S. had "no grounds" to put it on the list, and noted that Human Rights Watch had corrected a report that implicated the company. It added that it hadn't earned revenue from Xinjiang in the first part of the year, and the impact on its business from the designation was minimal.
The blacklist comes as Mr. Trump faces growing pressure at home to support pro-democracy protests in the Chinese-controlled territory of Hong Kong. On Monday, Mr. Trump said he was hoping for a "humane solution" in a city where protests have grown increasingly violent.