Investors and drone lovers alike might be disappointed to learn that one of the world’s leading drone companies has been indefinitely put on an investment blocklist. According to Engadget, DJI along with seven other companies based out of the Xinjiang region of China were banned from the stock market for their alleged involvement in illegally surveilling Uyghur Muslims.
To understand why the United States ultimately came to the decision to block US investors from investing in DJI, it is important to understand the context behind the allegations. Uyghur Muslims are an intensely repressed and abused people who live in the Xinjiang region of China. The Chinese government has stripped the group of many of their rights and liberties and over the years there have been many riots to come out of the Uyghur’s unfair treatment and overall struggles.
In addition to that repression, Xinjiang has increasingly operated more and more as a police state. In fact, there have been multiple times in recent years where the policing became so severe that the entire populous in the region was entirely cut off from the internet for months on end. The authoritarian mindset of that region has given rise to many concerning technologies whose entire purpose is to illegally spy on individuals, essentially stripping someone of any sort of privacy. This in itself is a human rights violation. The allegations point to DJI’s involvement in such violations in connection to the Uyghur Muslims. Hence, the government’s move to place them on an investment blocklist.
The move to block DJI from having a presence in the US stock market follows a previous move that put them on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List. Essentially, being on that list means that companies in the United States are prohibited from selling any parts or components to DJI unless they have explicit authorization to do so in the form of a license. Both decisions were a direct result of evidence that arose that showed that DJI potentially “enabled wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance.”
The intention for putting these limitations on DJI in the United States is part of a larger effort to impose sanctions on the entire Xinjiang region of China. In fact, a bill recently passed in Congress which now prevents any goods from being imported from Xinjiang with the one exception being if companies in that region could offer proof that the products were made by people of their own free will.
At this point, it remains unclear how the new restrictions being imposed on DJI will affect their company’s overall ability to keep selling drones in the United States. However, unlike other Xingjiang-based companies like Huawei, whose products have been completely banned from US soil, DJI products still remain purchasable despite the imposed limitations. This might be due to the fact that DJI controls a whopping 77% of the entire US drone market.
In response to the purported allegations, DJI has continued to maintain that they have not committed any human rights violations or done anything to suggest they are involved in any other type of wrongdoings. They have asserted that they don’t belong on the investment blocklist. DJI also put particular emphasis on the fact that their United States customers can continue to buy and use its products as they normally would.