Drone maker DJI faces more US sanctions over surveillance concerns

DJI Mini 2 Drone in hand
DJI Mini 2 Drone in hand (Image credit: DJI)

What you need to know

  • The U.S. Treasury Department has placed DJI and other companies on an investment blocklist.
  • DJI is accused of having supplied surveillance technology for the Chinese government.
  • The move comes a year after DJI was placed on the Entity List.

The United States is making another move against popular drone maker DJI as the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) places it and seven other companies on an investment blocklist.

The announcement was made on Thursday following reports that DJI would be among the companies targeted by the U.S. government. According to the Treasury, these companies "actively support the biometric surveillance and tracking of ethnic and religious minorities in China, particularly the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang."

More specifically, the Treasury says that DJI "operates or has operated in the surveillance technology sector of the economy of the PRC. SZ DJI has provided drones to the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, which are used to surveil Uyghurs in Xinjiang."

DJI is the company best known for making popular drones like the Mavic, but also makes some of the best smartphone gimbals like the new Osmo Mobile 5.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Commerce placed DJI on its entity list, blocking U.S. companies from providing technology to DJI unless they had a license to do so. It was believed then that DJI's products "enabled wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance."

The new list blocks U.S. investors from buying or selling shares in the company, as noted by Brian E. Nelson, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Today's action highlights how private firms in China's defense and surveillance technology sectors are actively cooperating with the government's efforts to repress members of ethnic and religious minority groups. Treasury remains committed to ensuring that the U.S. financial system and American investors are not supporting these activities.

While the move places more pressure on DJI and the Chinese government, DJI can continue selling its products in the United States, unlike Huawei, which has seen tighter sanctions placed on it.

Android Central reached out for a comment regarding the Treasury's move. While DJI didn't have anything new to say, a spokesperson did refer us to a statement the company made last year after being added to the Entity List:

DJI has done nothing to justify being placed on the Entity List. We have always focused on building products that save lives and benefit society. DJI and its employees remain committed to providing our customers with the industry's most innovative technology. We are evaluating options to ensure our customers, partners, and suppliers are treated fairly.

Derrek Lee
News Editor

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.