The US, Canada, UK and the EU have all slapped sanctions on Beijing over human rights abuses. It’s the first major global action against China, following years of reports about the systematic persecution of the Uyghur minority. China has hit back with sanctions of its own.
China’s Wang Junzheng, the Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, were sanctioned for their connection to “arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse, among other serious human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs,” the Department of Treasury said in a statement Monday.
Treasury accused China of using repressive tactics for the last five years against Uyghurs and other members of ethnic minorities in the region, including mass detentions and surveillance.
“Targets of this surveillance are often detained and reportedly subjected to various methods of torture and “political reeducation,” Treasury wrote in a statement.
Beijing has previously rejected U.S. charges that it has committed genocide against the Uyghurs, a Muslim population indigenous to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in Northwest China.
“Amid growing international condemnation, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to the PRC’s crimes and for justice for the many victims,” the nation’s top diplomat added.
The sanctions by the Biden administration complement actions also taken today by the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada.
China has also said that allegations of its use of detention camps are groundless and that it instead uses facilities to provide vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism.
The sanctions come on the heels of a contentious meeting between Blinken and national security advisor Jake Sullivan, and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and State Councilor Wang Yi in Alaska.
Ahead of the talks, Blinken slammed China’s sweeping use of “coercion and aggression” on the international stage and warned that the U.S. will push back if necessary.
“China uses coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law,” Blinken said at a news conference in Japan.
President Joe Biden, who spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping last month, has previously said that his approach to China would be different from his predecessor’s in that he would work more closely with allies in order to mount pushback against Beijing.
“We will confront China’s economic abuses,” Biden said in a speech at the State Department, describing Beijing as America’s “most serious competitor.”
“But we’re also ready to work with Beijing when it’s in America’s interest to do so,” Biden said. “We’ll compete from a position of strength by building back better at home and working with our allies and partners.”