“Amid growing international condemnation, the [People’s Republic of China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity” in the Xinjiang region, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “The United States reiterates its calls on the PRC to bring an end to the repression of Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, including by releasing all those arbitrarily held in internment camps and detention facilities.“
Blinken, who is in Europe this week visiting counterparts, added: “These actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights and shining a light on those in the PRC government and [Chinese Communist Party] responsible for these atrocities.“
The U.S. sanctions targeted two individuals: 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.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the XPCC is a paramilitary organization that “enhances internal control over the region by advancing China’s vision of economic development in [Xinjiang] that emphasizes subordination to central planning and resource extraction.“
Treasury also added that “Since at least late 2016, repressive tactics have been used by the XPSB against the Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities in the region, including mass detentions and surveillance.“
Both the XPSB and the XPCC have already been sanctioned by the United States. Wang and Chen are being sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, which means assets they may have in the U.S. are frozen and Americans cannot do business with them.
It’s hard to say exactly how much financial damage the new sanctions will do, but given the coordination with Europe, Britain and Canada, it packs a symbolic punch.
The EU on Monday morning approved sanctions against four Chinese officials involved in the internment of hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs. In response, the Chinese government sanctioned 10 individuals and four entities in Europe that it argues “severely harm China’s sovereignty and interests and maliciously spread lies and disinformation.”
The EU sanctions were believed to be the first from the bloc to target China on human rights since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
Canada, meanwhile, announced it is imposing sanctions on four individuals and one entity, but a press release did not identify those targets.
Blinken was among the U.S. officials who met with top Chinese officials in Anchorage last week. The meeting began with harsh words from both sides, with Blinken warning the Chinese that the U.S. did not see its human rights abuses in places like Xinjiang as merely internal matters but rather as threats to the rules-based international order.
Stuart Lau contributed reporting.