Senators challenge Pompeo over Boeing China satellites

July, 2019

Chinese government using ‘loopholes that enabled it to have access to, and direct use of, American-built satellites.’

Senators challenge Pompeo over Boeing China satellites

Two US senators have written to the US Secretary of State voicing their concerns regarding Boeing’s alleged role in the construction of satellites bound for China, allegedly part of an effort connecting ‘Chinese soldiers on contested outposts in the South China Sea, strengthen police forces against social unrest and make sure that state messaging penetrates far and wide.’

The allegations about the satellites surfaced in a Wall Street Journal article published in late April, entitled, ‘China exploits fleet of US satellites to strengthen police and military power.’

In their letter, dated 27 June, senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst write,

‘The use of American satellite technology by the Chinese military and police raises serious military, national security, and human rights concerns.’

The Chinese government, they write, appear to have ‘evaded’ US export controls prohibiting sale of satellites to Chinese government agencies, ‘through two loopholes that enabled it to have access to, and direct use of, American-built satellites. First, China reportedly rents bandwidth from satellites that it is otherwise prohibited from buying. According to the WSJ, despite the clear statutory prohibition on any direct or indirect transfer of satellites to the Chinese government or to persons or entities acting on behalf of the Chinese government, the U.S. “doesn’t regulate how a satellite’s bandwidth is used once the device is in space.”

‘Second, Chinese-owned companies based in Hong Kong – including some which seem to act on behalf of the Chinese government – have been able to purchase satellites from American manufacturers.’

The letter concludes with a number of questions for the State Department, requesting that they should be answered by 10 July. These include whether the State Department

‘consider[s] any of the facts or accounts in the WSJ article…to represent a violation of any of the statutory prohibitions barring any satellite from being (i) “exported, re-exported, or transferred, directly or indirectly” to the Chinese government or to “any entity or person in or acting for or on behalf of such government, entity, or person” or (ii) “launched in [China] or as part of a launch vehicle owned, operated, or manufactured by the [Chinese government] or any entity or person in or acting for or on behalf of such government, entity, or person”?’;

‘How can the U.S. prevent Chinese-owned companies organized outside mainland China (such as in Hong Kong) from evading or circumventing American export controls to procure or otherwise obtain access to regulated technology?’, and

‘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?’





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