A Chinese investment firm in which Hunter Biden was a part owner held a stake likely worth millions in a surveillance company that helped Beijing spy on Uyghur Muslims, the U.S. government revealed Thursday.
President Joe Biden's son long held a 10% ownership stake in Chinese investment firm Bohai Harvest, which invested in several controversial Chinese companies. One, Megvii, was sanctioned in 2019 for its alleged participation in China's repression and high-technology surveillance in Xinjiang, and again on Thursday by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Megvii was among eight Chinese tech firms accused of “actively support[ing] the biometric surveillance and tracking of ethnic and religious minorities in China, particularly the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang,” the Treasury Department said. The public is now prohibited from buying or selling certain securities connected to the groups, all newly labeled part of China's "military-industrial complex."
Hunter Biden's lawyers said in November his solely owned LLC Skaneateles no longer holds a stake in Bohai Harvest, though available public records are inconclusive.
The Treasury Department said Megvii operates in China's "surveillance technology sector” and controls another company that “created customized software designed to conduct surveillance activities of ethnic minorities, including Uyghurs.” The United States said that “one such AI software could recognize persons as being part of the Uyghur ethnic minority and send automated alarms to government authorities."
Both the Trump and Biden administrations have declared the Chinese government is conducting a genocide against the Uyghurs and other religious and ethnic minorities in western China.
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A review of Bohai Harvest's financial documents shows it had access to hundreds of millions of dollars for Chinese and global investments and set up a complicated web of China-based and Cayman Island shell companies and subsidiaries.
A prospectus for Megvii states that, in 2017, two Bohai Harvest subsidiaries each issued 1.2 million “C-2 series preferred shares” at Megvii, and figures that appear to be from 2020 list each of the two Bohai Harvest entities as holding a combined total of up to 1.7% of the Chinese surveillance company's shares.
The Financial Times reported that Bohai Harvest invested in Megvii in 2017. Megvii and fellow tech giant Huawei allegedly helped the Chinese Communist Party spy on Uyghurs using facial recognition technology.
The Washington Post reported that “the system tested how a mix of Megvii’s facial recognition software and Huawei’s cameras, servers, networking equipment, cloud-computing platform and other hardware and software worked on dozens” of what the report referred to as “basic functions” such as “recognition based on age, sex, ethnicity, and angle of facial images.”
Huawei and Megvii denied wrongdoing, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry called the reports “purely slander."
President Joe Biden pledged his family would not have any foreign business ties, but the White House still won’t answer basic questions about Hunter Biden’s role in the Chinese government-linked firm, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki dodging the question earlier this month.
Chris Clark, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, told the New York Times in November that the president’s son “no longer holds any interest, directly or indirectly, in either BHR or Skaneateles.” He has not responded to the Washington Examiner’s questions.
The president’s son still appears to hold a 10% equity stake in Bohai Harvest, according to Chinese business records, but it is possible the records simply have not been updated yet. Three Chinese business websites, run by Baidu, Qixin, and QCC, all currently show Skaneateles as still being a “sponsor/shareholder” with 3 million yuan, or $464,000, invested.
Bohai Harvest also invested in the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group, which was blacklisted in 2019 for having allegedly attempted to acquire U.S. nuclear technology for military use in China, and the Chinese firm teamed up with the state-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China, hit with sanctions in 2021 for its role in China’s military-industrial complex.
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The other seven companies named by the Treasury Department on Thursday include Shenzhen Da-Jiang Innovations Sciences and Technologies, commonly known as DJI. The Treasury Department concluded DJI “provided drones to the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, which are used to surveil Uyghurs in Xinjiang.”
The Defense Department said in July that the Pentagon believed systems produced by DJI “pose potential threats to national security.” Both the Secret Service and FBI, among other law enforcement agencies, bought drones from the company recently.