US sanctions companies for rights abuses in Chinese waters

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Treasury Department said Friday it is sanctioning a group of companies and people linked to illegal fishing operations and human rights abuses in Chinese waters.

One company is accused of maintaining working conditions so dangerous that five workers died after 13 months at sea, with three of the workers’ bodies dumped into the ocean rather than repatriated to their homes.

The Cayman Islands-registered fishing company Pingtan Marine Enterprise, Ltd., which maintains boats based in China and has stock traded on the Nasdaq Stock Market, was identified by the Office of Foreign Assets Control for sanctions.

The United States accuses the company of illegally shipping endangered species and abusing crew members through its subsidiaries and fleet of over 100 fishing boats.

The Biden administration also says two individuals, Li Zhenyu and Xinrong Zhuo, along with Dalian Ocean Fishing Co. Ltd. and other companies engaged in illegal unreported fishing.

A senior department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the U.S. action, said on a call with reporters that Dalian employs crew members who work an average of 18 hours a day, live off expired food and drink dirty water.

Illegal unreported fishing is associated with distant water fishing, where boats fish in other countries’ or international waters. China’s distant water fishing fleet is the largest in the world.

The action on Friday, which coincides with International Anti-Corruption Day, identifies 157 Chinese fishing vessels in which sanctioned companies and people have an interest.

The sanctioned companies’ property and interests in the U.S. will be blocked and American companies that do business with the sanctioned entities will have to wind down their ties with them.

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