US, allies announce sanctions on China over Uyghur ‘genocide’

Washington, DC: The United States and its allies in Canada, Britain and the European Union on Monday announced sanctions on several Chinese officials alleged to have links to what US officials say is a genocidal campaign against Uyghur Muslims.

The international, coordinated sanctions, first reported by POLITICO, drew condemnation and some immediate retaliatory sanctions from Beijing. The moves offered a glimpse into the growing divide between China and the United States and its trans-Atlantic allies, which, like Washington, are increasingly wary of China’s global ambitions and internal repression.

The sanctions are an opportunity for the Biden administration to justify its emphasis on working with allies, one major aspect of its foreign policy that it says distinguishes it from the administration of former President Donald Trump. The sanctions also come after a tense high-level meeting between US and China in Alaska.

“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, noted that the U.K., Canada and the EU were also imposing various sanctions. “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,” Blinken said.

The US 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 US 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 US 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.

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