China’s AI Firm SenseTime Relists Hong Kong Offering after US Blacklisting

SenseTime Group, the artificial intelligence (AI) startup in China, has decided to relaunch its Hong Kong share sale valued at $767 million. The announcement came a week after the listing had come to a halt because Americans were banned from making investments in the company. SenseTime has been accused by Washington of developing facial recognition software to be used for determining the ethnicity of people, with the aim of identifying ethnic Uyghurs. The shares of the company are due to start trading from 30th December on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. The company plans on selling a total of 1.5 billion shares in its initial public offering (IPO) for a value between HK$3.85 and HK$3.99 each, as per the regulatory filings.

They will announce the final price on Thursday. Last week, SenseTime had had to postpone its planned listing after the company was placed on the list of ‘Chinese military-industrial complex companies’ by the US Treasury Department. The aim of the list is to prevent US citizens from investing in companies. The allegations of the US government were obviously denied by SenseTime and reiterated this denial on Monday. The company stated that its products and services were aimed at civilian uses and not commercial ones, or for any military purpose or application.

The company also stated that even though there were no issues in its business operations due to the investment ban by Washington, the lack of American investors would mean that it would have some trouble in raising funds. This listing comes at a time when tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to grow. Last week, a bill was passed by the US Congress under which companies are required to prove that goods that they import from the Xinjiang region in China were not produced via forced labor. 

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China has also been accused of genocide by the United States because of its repression of the Uyghur minority, which is predominantly Muslim. Moreover, the US had also imposed additional restrictions on DJI, the Chinese drone-maker, and seven other companies in China in the previous week. The companies have been placed on an investment exclusion list by the Treasury Department, which bans US citizens from buying and selling shares in these companies. Earlier this month, the United States had also announced that no diplomats would attend the 2022 Winter Olympics that are to be held in Beijing. It cited concerns regarding the human rights record of China. 

There are other countries, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, which have also joined this diplomatic boycott. According to human rights groups and UN experts, more than one million people, who are mainly Uyghur Muslim and other minorities, have been detained in a huge system of camps in recent years in the far-west region of Xinjiang in China. Some parliaments and foreign lawmakers have also labeled the treatment of these minorities as genocide, as they have evidence of deaths and forced sterilizations inside the camps. These claims have been denied by China and the country claims that popular growth rates of Uyghurs are above the national average. 

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