Xinjiang: Chairs Ask CEOs of Intel and NVIDIA About Possible Involvement in Human Rights Abuses

December 8, 2020

(Washington)—Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Chair and Cochair, respectively, of the bipartisan and bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent letters to the Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of both Intel Corporation and NVIDIA seeking additional information about the sale of advanced computer chips helping to power a supercomputer used by People’s Republic of China (PRC) security forces to conduct mass surveillance and other human rights abuses against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). 

The Chairs asked the CEOs for a response to questions about their exports to the PRC, including whether they knew their technology would be used to support surveillance activities of the PRC police and security entities and whether they took steps to ensure that their products were not used for human rights abuses or to compromise U.S. national security.

Full text of the letters can be found here and here.  The letter to NVIDIA’s CEO can be found below. 

Jensen Huang
Chief Executive Officer
2788 San Tomas Expressway
Santa Clara, CA 95051

Dear Mr. Huang:

We write to raise concerns about your company’s sales of advanced computing chips to the companies and security agencies responsible for carrying out human rights abuses by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

A recent report by The New York Times raised concerns that processors sold by NVIDIA help power a supercomputer used by PRC security forces in the XUAR to conduct mass surveillance of Uyghurs and other Turkic or Muslim minorities. Built by Sugon, a high-performance computing manufacturer with close ties to the PRC military, the Urumqi Cloud Computing Center (UCCC) is the currently the 135th most powerful supercomputer in the world. Publicly available information indicates the UCCC is used to conduct “predictive policing,” preventatively identifying behaviors considered dangerous or disloyal to the Chinese Communist Party by parsing enormous quantities of video and other surveillance data.

Over the last three years, evidence has mounted that mass surveillance—made possible by combining computing power and big data with traditional surveillance methods—has enabled the PRC’s mass internment and forced labor policies that affect millions of Uyghurs and other Turkic or Muslim minorities. Moreover, these technologies—and the expertise necessary to apply them—have been used to monitor the rest of Chinese society and to shape the behavior of PRC citizens, and are increasingly sold to other governments around the world by PRC-based corporations.

Since October 2019, the U.S. Department of Commerce has added 48 PRC-domiciled companies and government entities to the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Entity List for their complicity “in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).” According to reporting by The New York Times and others, some of the entities named by the U.S. Government for their role in these human rights abuses, including Sugon, are clients of your company.

In light of these reports, we have the following questions about your business in the People’s Republic of China:

  • Were you aware that your company was selling its product(s) or service(s) to entities in the PRC, that the U.S. Government has determined are either a national security risk or are complicit in serious human rights violations, and placed on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List?
  • How many export licenses involving these PRC entities, or their subsidiaries and subordinates on the Commerce Department’s Entity list, has your company applied for? For which products? How many have been approved?
  • How much revenue has your company and its subsidiaries earned over the last 12 months, or the most recent fiscal year, from sales to PRC entities on the Entity List, including to any of their subsidiaries, parent firms, or subordinate government agencies?
  • What, if any, due diligence did your company perform prior to selling your products to the PRC entities in question to ensure that your products were not used in human rights abuses, and, in particular, the mass surveillance systems used to suppress Uyghurs and other PRC citizens?
  • To what extent was your company aware that your products would be used to support the operations and activities of the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, and the People’s Armed Police?
  • Senior executives in Arm Holdings, a microprocessor design firm, have stated publicly that they established a joint venture in the PRC in 2018 to grow sales to end users in the PRC military and security services. Given these public statements, what steps is Nvidia taking to ensure that Arm’s sales and research partnerships in the PRC remain compliant with U.S. export administration regulations following its recent acquisition of Arm Holdings?

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these questions. We look forward to your timely responses.