US senators seek info from Trump govt on satellite sales to Chinese firm

Topics US Senate

Photo: Reuters

Two top Republican Senators have sought from the Trump administration information about the process through which Boeing has provided American-made satellites to Chinese-connected companies, rasing suspicion about the possibility of Beijing using the technology for human rights abuses.

In a letter to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernest have said that robust export control laws are critical to ensuring that sensitive technology does not fall into the hands of those who may use it against the US.

The use of American satellite technology by the Chinese military and police raises serious military, national security, and human rights concerns, the Senators wrote in the letter.

"These satellites may be used in furtherance of Chinese military goals and technological development, raising significant national security concerns for the United States," the said.

The letter by the Senators to Pompeo came following a report in the Wall Street Journal early this year, saying Boeing has built nine satellites and is in the process of building another for sale to China.

The Senators also said the communications satellites may also be used in support of domestic efforts to suppress protests and the free exercise of religion among other human rights.

Grassley and Ernest also sought the department's assessment of whether these sales constitute a violation of the broad statutory prohibitions on selling satellite technology to China.

They demanded information on how to prevent circumvention of those export control laws and how to stop further transfer of American-built satellites that may be used to support human rights abuses and Chinese military development.

Chinese companies using American-made satellites also raises serious military concerns since these satellites are used for more than commercial communication.Commercial satellites can be deployed for military purposes such as imaging an adversary's military installations for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes, they said.

They asked how could US ensure that China does not obtain further access to the use of American-built satellites against the religious minorities.

"How can we ensure that China does not obtain further access to or use of American-built satellites or other regulated technology to support its oppression and subjugation of religious and ethnic minorities, including the internment of the Uyghur population? the Senators asked in the letter.

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