The administration of US President Donald Trump on Friday took new aim at Chin by imposing sanctions on a major paramilitary organization in the country’s western Xinjiang region and its commander for alleged human rights abuses against ethnic and religious minorities.
The US’ State and Treasury departments announced the penalties as the White House denounced authorities in Hong Kong for postponing local government elections ostensibly because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Germany also reacted to the election delay by suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
The Chinese embassy in Berlin on Friday condemned the suspension, saying it violated international law and “grossly interferes with China’s internal affairs.”
The US sanctions, which freeze any assets the targets might have in US jurisdictions and perhaps more significantly bar Americans from doing business with them, hit the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, its commander and former political commissar for alleged abuses against Uighur Muslims, including mass arbitrary detentions, forced labor and torture.
The production and construction corps is a major operation consisting of 14 military-style divisions that reports to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and is in charge of billions of dollars in development projects in Xinjiang, including mining and energy exploration.
“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which provides authority for the US administration to penalize human rights abusers abroad.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the two officials targeted would also be subject to US visa restrictions.
The Trump administration has previously sanctioned other officials in Xinjiang subjecting them to travel bans.
Meanwhile, the White House lashed out at the postponement of the upcoming Hong Kong elections in comments likely to draw accusations of hypocrisy from China after Trump’s tweeted suggestion on Thursday that the US elections be postponed to prevent fraud from mail-in ballots expected to flood the polls because of the virus outbreak.
“We condemn the Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone for one year its legislative council elections and to disqualify opposition candidates,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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