WASHINGTON: The Biden administration on Thursday (Nov 16) removed the Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science from a trade sanction list, part of a bid to convince Beijing to do more to halt the flow of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States.
Washington put the institute on the list in 2020 over alleged abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups, effectively barring it from receiving most goods from US suppliers.
Former Chinese ambassador to the US Qin Gang in an interview last year described it as “shocking” the US would sanction the institute, which he described as essential to controlling fentanyl.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reuters had previously reported the institute would be removed as Biden sought more cooperation from Beijing on fentanyl in a meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping on Wednesday in San Francisco at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
As part of the meeting, the men agreed to create a working group on counter-narcotics cooperation. Rayhan Asat, a human rights lawyer of Uyghur heritage, said she recognized the pressing issue posed by fentanyl, but that the US decision raised questions about US commitment to addressing China’s rights abuses.
“The United States has a legal obligation, under federal law, to address atrocity crimes once they have been determined as such. The question then arises: should addressing one issue take precedence over addressing the genocide?” she said.
Blocking fentanyl “precursor” chemicals has been a priority for Washington as the rate of overdose deaths involving the drug more than tripled from 2016 through 2021, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The removal, according to a notice posted in the Federal Register, came after a “removal proposal” was received and reviewed, the department said in the posting, by a committee composed of representatives of the departments of Commerce, State, Defense, Energy, and sometimes, the Treasury.
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