The Trump administration targeted Xinjiang region’s Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who becomes the highest-ranking Chinese official to be hit with U.S. sanctions, and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. The highly anticipated action follows months of open hostility toward Beijing in Washington over China’s handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and its tightened grip on Hong Kong.
“The United States calls upon the world to stand against the CCP’s acts against its own minority communities in Xinjiang, including mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, religious persecution, and forced birth control and sterilization,” a White House official said.
The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
However, China denies mistreatment of the minority group and says the camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
The sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a federal law that allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators around the world with freezes on any U.S. assets, U.S. travel bans and prohibitions on Americans doing business with them.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters after the announcements described Chen as the highest ranking Chinese official ever sanctioned by the United States, adding that the sanction is “no joke. Not only in terms of symbolic and reputational affect, but it does have real meaning on a person’s ability to move around the world and conduct business.”
The sanctions were also imposed on Zhu Hailun, a former deputy party secretary of the region and current deputy secretary of regional legislative body the Xinjiang’s People’s Congress, Wang Mingshan, the director and Communist Party secretary of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau and former party secretary of the bureau Huo Liujun.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was also imposing further visa restrictions on Chen, Zhu, and Wang, as well as on other unnamed Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials, barring them and their immediate family from the United States.
The U.S. Treasury Department said that Chen implemented “a comprehensive surveillance, detention, and indoctrination program in Xinjiang, targeting Uighurs and other ethnic minorities” through the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.