China yesterday said it would impose tit-for-tat measures after the US slapped sanctions on Chinese officials for their involvement in a crackdown on Muslim minorities, raising tensions between the superpowers.
The two countries have traded barbs and sanctions on a slew of issues since US President Donald Trump took office, from trade to more recent spats over the COVID-19 pandemic, security legislation in Hong Kong, and Chinese policies in Tibet and Xinjiang.
The latest Chinese response followed a US announcement of visa bans and an assets freeze on three officials, including Chen Quanguo (陳全國), the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief in Xinjiang and architect of Beijing’s policies against restive minorities.
“The US actions seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the basic norms of international relations, and seriously damage China-US relations,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) said in a briefing.
“China has decided to impose reciprocal measures against the relevant US institutions and individuals who behave badly on issues related to Xinjiang,” Zhao said, without providing details about the sanctions.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said that Washington was acting against “horrific and systematic abuses” in Xinjiang, including forced labor, mass detention and involuntary population control.
The back-and-forth over Xinjiang comes just days after the two countries imposed visa restrictions on each other over their disagreement on Tibet.
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) on Thursday blamed the rising tensions on “McCarthy-style paranoia” in the US.
Witnesses and human rights groups say that China has rounded up more than 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in a vast brainwashing campaign aimed at forcibly homogenizing minorities into the nation’s Han majority.
Pompeo in a conference call with reporters on Thursday called the situation “the stain of the century” and has previously drawn parallels with the Holocaust.
Beijing said that it is providing education and vocational training in a bid to reduce the allure of Islamic radicalism following a spate of deadly violence.
The Uighur Human Rights Project, an advocacy group, hailed the sanctions and urged other countries to follow suit.
“At last, real consequences have begun. This comes at the 11th hour for Uighurs,” said the US-based group’s executive director, Omer Kanat.
The other two officials hit with sanctions were Wang Mingshan (王明山), the director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, and Zhu Hailun (朱海侖), a former senior CCP leader in the region.
The US Department of the Treasury sanctions also make it a crime in the US to conduct financial transactions with the three people, as well as a fourth person, former security official Huo Liujun (霍留軍), who was not subjected to the separate visa restrictions.
The Treasury also imposed sanctions on the security bureau as an institution, pointing to its sweeping digital surveillance of Uighurs and other minorities.
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