Artificial Intelligence: AI Surveillance Firm SenseTime Forced To Put Off IPO After US Blacklisting

Washington on Friday blacklisted SenseTime, the Chinese AI startup, for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China.

SenseTime, a Chinese AI startup, put its $767 million Hong Kong IPO in abeyance after being placed on a US investment blacklist for allegedly using its facial recognition technology to identify repressed ethnic minorities such as the Uighurs. (Reuters)

The US Treasury on Friday added SenseTime to a list of “Chinese military-industrial complex companies” that were banned to US investors. Sense Time had been planning to raise $767 million through an Hong Kong IPO for 1.5 billion shares in the price range of HK$3.85 to HK$3.99, and it was scheduled to set the listing price on Friday.

However, the US investment blacklist forced the company to instead huddle with lawyers and Hong Kong Stock Exchange authorities in emergent talks to determine the strategy for the IPO. Today, (Monday) it postponed the IPO, though it said it intended to still complete the issue after publishing a supplemental prospectus and a revised time schedule.

Sense Time will refund application monies to all applicants who participated in the offering process. It has received about $450 million from cornerstone investors, most of whom are expected to stick with the deal.

Xinjiang “genocide”

There has been an international outcry over China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, more than a million of whom are alleged to be incarcerated in camps in China’s far-west region of Xinjiang.

Human rights organizations and many foreign parliaments have cited alleged deaths and forced sterilizations at these camps, labelling Chinese actions in Xinjiang as genocide.

SenseTime said in a statement on Saturday it “strongly opposed the designation and accusations that have been made in connection with it,” calling the accusations “unfounded”.

Related Story: SenseTime’s Proposed IPO Could Be The World’s Largest In AI

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