A former official accused AT&T of lobbying the Commercial Department of keeping a blacklist from a Chinese public telecoms firm which allegedly contributed to Peking’s repression of ethnic Muslim minorities in the area of Xinjiang.
Former Commerce Secretary Corey Stewart told Fox News’ ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ on 24 February that the department was “on the verge of placing China Telecom in a commercial blacklist known as the “list of entities” prior to contacting an AT&T executive who urged officials not to move forward. American companies are prohibited from doing business with companies on the list of companies without a departmental licence.
Initially, the National File reported Stewart’s allegations.
In response, AT&T, which operates in China with China Telecom, confirmed that it opposed potential sanctions as it meant that US businesses in China would have to rely on Chinese state-run service telephone companies rather than AT&T or other US companies. He said Chinese law obliges US telephone companies, if they want to operate in China, to partner with Chinese communications companies.
“We and other companies told the Commerce Department and other government officials to inform their policies regarding the potential unintended implications of placing China Telecom on the list of entities,” AT&T stated in the Wednesday statement.
Stewart, the minister of the Trump Administration, said that after being informed that it was “using cellphone technology to track minority communities in China, spying on them, and then passing this information to the Chinese police state,” the department moved to sanction China Telecom.
In a campaign called a genocide by the Trump administration, the Chinese regime has detained more than 1 million Uyghur Muslims and other Muslim minorities in Far-Western Xinjiang. The United States has blacklisted a raft of Chinese companies and official bodies on their roles in helping the Chinese regime to persecute the region.
Stewart said that the department was “contacted by Ed Gillespie, AT&T’s CEO, who urged us not to place China Telecom on the entity list despite these abusses.”
“We were pretty shocked, of course,” he added.
The former official told the National File that the department decided to review the matter further as a result of the conversation.
“The professional staff at the Department of Commerce are clearly on the way,” Stewart told Fox News. “If it doesn’t happen, that means the Biden Administration has put pressure on AT&T not to put it on.”
China Telecom was placed last year on the Pentagon list of Chinese military-owned or controlled companies. Former President Donald Trump later issued an executive order prohibiting US investment in firms on this list in January. As a result, the NYSE has said it will drop China Telecom and two other Chinese telecommunications companies that have been affected by the order.
The Chinese government-controlled company has also been examining various cases of the diversion of international internet traffic through China, raising concern as to whether the Chinese regime has access to the information.