The United States imposed sanctions and visa restrictions Thursday on Chen Quanguo, the autonomous region of Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary and a member of China’s powerful Politburo, over human rights abuses of Uighur Muslims.
The blacklist was imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to sanction human rights offenders by freezing their assets, banning them from the U.S. and cutting off business ties, Reuters reported. Chen is the highest ranking Chinese official to have been targeted by American sanctions so far.
In a press statement Thursday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sharply criticized the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for committing human rights violations against the Uighur and Kazakh ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. These violations included “forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith.”
“The United States is taking action today against the horrific and systematic abuses in Xinjiang and calls on all nations who share our concerns about the CCP’s attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms to join us in condemning this behavior,” Pompeo said.
Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seized a 13-ton shipment of human hair from Meixin Hair Product Co. Ltd. in southern Xinjiang. The U.S. government reported that the hair and other products were linked to Uighur forced labor camps. Major companies like Nike have also been accused of relying on Uighur forced labor camps, according to The Washington Post.
An Associated Press investigation also concluded that China was committing “demographic genocide” against Uighur Muslims through forced abortions, birth control and mass detentions. (RELATED: Chinese Government Appears To Have Been Destroying Muslim Cemeteries For Years)
The U.S. also blacklisted former Xinjiang deputy secretary Zhu Hailun, Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB) chief Wang Mingshan, and former XPSB chief Huo Liujun. The Department of the Treasury issued a similar statement Thursday announcing financial sanctions against the four officials.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said during a press conference Friday that China would take “reciprocal measures” in response to the blacklist.
China decided to impose reciprocal sanction measures on US institutions & individuals with egregious behaviors on Xinjiang.
— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) July 10, 2020
Zhao also denounced Pompeo and urged the U.S. to “immediately rescind its wrong decision and stop making any remarks or moves that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interests.”
“Xinjiang affairs are entirely China’s internal affairs. The US has no right and is in no position to intervene,” Zhao said.