WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Democratic Representative Jim McGovern on Tuesday sent letters to Intel Corp and Nvidia Corp seeking information on the sale of advanced computer chips allegedly used by China to conduct mass surveillance on Uighurs in the country’s remote Xinjiang region.
Rubio is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees human rights, and McGovern chairs the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
The executives were also asked whether they knew their technology would be used to support surveillance activities conducted by China‘s police forces and whether they took steps to ensure their products were not used for human rights abuses or to compromise U.S. national security.
Nvidia declined to comment. Intel spokesman William Moss said the company does not tolerate its products being used to violate human rights and when the company becomes aware of such a concern it ceases or restricts business with third parties until it has confidence its products are not used to commit such violations.
The United Nations has estimated that more than a million Muslims have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang region. The U.S. State Department has accused Chinese officials of subjecting Uighur Muslims to torture, abuse “and trying to basically erase their culture and their religion.”
Earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump signed legislation calling for sanctions over the repression of China’s Uighurs.
China denies mistreatment and has said the camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose and David Shepardson in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis)