U.S., major allies sanction China for Uighur ‘genocide’

On Monday, the United States and its allies the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union announced sanctions against numerous Chinese officials with alleged links to what the U.S. has deemed “genocide” against Uighur Muslims.

The coordinated international sanctions, which were first reported by Politico, prompted denouncement and some immediate retaliatory sanctions from China.

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“Amid growing international condemnation, the [People’s Republic of China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity” in the northwest Xinjiang region, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “The United States reiterates its calls on the PRC to bring an end to the repression of Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, including by releasing all those arbitrarily held in internment camps and detention facilities.”

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“These actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights and shining a light on those in the PRC government and [Chinese Communist Party] responsible for these atrocities,” Blinken added.

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According to statements from Blinken and the U.S. Treasury Department, the U.S. sanctions targeted two people: Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB).

During a Monday press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying called the United States’ Xinjiang-related actions “absurdity,” however, he did not directly address the Treasury’s actions.

“I think Xinjiang-related issues are not about the treatment of the Uyghurs, but about lies and truth. It’s nothing short of absurdity that the U.S. side bases its accusations against China on lies and rumors,” Hua said. “The door to Xinjiang is always open. We welcome all, including US personnel, who really want to know Xinjiang’s development to visit the region, but we firmly oppose any condescending presumption of guilt.”

According to the Treasury, the XPCC is a paramilitary organization that “enhances internal control over the region by advancing China’s vision of economic development in [Xinjiang] that emphasizes subordination to central planning and resource extraction.”

“Since at least late 2016, repressive tactics have been used by the XPSB against the Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities in the region, including mass detentions and surveillance,” the Treasury added.

Both the XPSB and the XPCC have already been sanctioned by the United States, as Politico noted. According to the U.S. announcement, Wang and Chen are being sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, meaning that assets they might have in the U.S. are frozen and Americans are barred from engaging in business with them.

Monday morning, the E.U. announced sanctions against four Chinese officials involved in the internment of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, including Wang and Chen. In retaliation, the Chinese government sanctioned 10 individuals and four entities in Europe that it argues “severely harm China’s sovereignty and interests and maliciously spread lies and disinformation.”

The E.U. sanctions, according to Politico, are believed to be the first from the union to punish China on human rights since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

At the same time, Canada announced it is sanctioning four individuals and one entity, although a press release did not name those targets.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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