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US lawmakers call for sanctions on China's WuXi AppTec biotech firm

Published 02/12/2024, 02:53 PM
Updated 02/12/2024, 03:31 PM
© Reuters. The logo of Chinese drug research and development group WuXi AppTec is displayed alongside its company website, in this illustration picture taken February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

By Michael Martina

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. should review Chinese biotech firm WuXi AppTec and its affiliate WuXi Biologics (HK:2269) for sanctions, a bipartisan group of lawmakers told top Biden administration officials on Monday.

    In a letter dated Feb. 12 and seen by Reuters, the lawmakers told Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that the global pharmaceutical giant's links to China's Communist Party and military threatened U.S. national security.

    The letter, signed by the Republican chair and Democratic ranking member of the House select committee on China, Representatives Mike Gallagher and Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Senators Gary Peters and Bill Hagerty, is Congress' latest effort to highlight what it says are risks posed by China's biotech leaders.

Congress has introduced legislation that would restrict federally-funded medical providers from allowing China's BGI Group, WuXi AppTec and other biotech firms from getting genetic information about Americans.

WuXi AppTec did not respond immediately to a request for comment, but has repeatedly said that it is not a national security risk to any country.

"We are concerned by a misguided U.S. legislative initiative to target our company without a fair and transparent review of the facts," WuXi AppTec said previously in a statement still on its website home page.

    The four lawmakers – citing public Chinese government documents, Chinese university websites and media articles – outlined what they called WuXi AppTec's clear military ties, as well as support for China's policies in Xinjiang, a region where Washington has accused Beijing of committing genocide against Muslim minorities.

    They said WuXi AppTec had received investment from numerous PLA funds, including the AVIC Military-Civil Integration Selected Hybrid Securities Investment Fund.

    They also cited a resume for WuXi Biologics CEO Chen Zhisheng, posted in 2018 to a Tsinghua University website, that listed him as a visiting professor at China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences, which was added to the Commerce Department's export control list in 2021.

    "Given WuXi AppTec's clear ties to the CCP and the PLA and its likely role in enabling the genocide in Xinjiang, we urge your departments to consider the inclusion of WuXi AppTec and its subsidiaries on your respective control lists," they said in the letter.

    Those should include sanctions under Treasury's Non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies List, the Commerce list restricting U.S. sales to named entities and the Pentagon's "1260H" list, which carries implicit warnings about U.S. cooperation with certain firms.

© Reuters. The logo of Chinese drug research and development group WuXi AppTec is displayed alongside its company website, in this illustration picture taken February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

    "WuXi AppTec and WuXi Biologics have obscured their ties to the CCP and PLA and, as a result, are rapidly integrating themselves into U.S. supply chains by signing agreements with prominent U.S. biotech entities," the lawmakers wrote.

    The two companies have counted Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN), GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) , and U.S. national labs as partners.

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