The Biden administration is removing a Chinese institute from a trade sanctions list, reportedly in exchange for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s help in cracking down on chemical shipments that are used to make deadly fentanyl.
The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science was added to the sanctions list in 2020 because of human rights concerns over the treatment of Uyghurs and other religious minorities in China. The designation made it difficult for the institute to access U.S. goods and outraged Chinese officials who said the institute played a role in cracking down on fentanyl.
A sanctions-removal notice related to the institute was posted in the Federal Register on Friday.
A Reuters report says the decision to ease off the institute in exchange for help on the overdose crisis is angering Republicans and activists who feel it puts one crisis over another.
“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? Can’t we address both?” Rayhan Asat, a human rights lawyer of Uyghur heritage, told the wire service.
The Uyghur Human Rights Project, writing on the X platform, claimed the institute in question possesses the “DNA of millions of Uyghurs — collected in 2016 without adequate consent.”
SEE ALSO: Biden claims major victory on rooting out fentanyl flow; Beijing already makes good on Xi’s promises
The decision to de-list the institute underscores the urgency around fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is the main driver of an overdose crisis that kills tens of thousands of Americans per year.
Under pressure from the Trump administration in 2019, China agreed to stop sending finished fentanyl to the U.S., yet precursor chemicals still make their way from China to Mexico.
President Biden and Mr. Xi decided to set up a working group to crack down on the shipments. Mexican drug cartels use the chemicals to forge fentanyl, which is often pressed in counterfeit pills that kill unsuspecting users in American communities.
The agreement, which Mr. Biden hailed as a big win, calls on Mr. Xi to issue a notice to Chinese industries about the crackdown. The deal also takes aim at pill presses that are made in China.
The Washington Times reached out to the White House for comment on the decision to remove the institute from the sanctions list and to inquire if any other concessions were made in exchange for fentanyl cooperation.