The US has imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on three senior Chinese officials, including the regional boss of the ruling communist party, for alleged human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in the restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.
China is accused of mass detentions, religious persecution and forced sterilisation of Uyghurs and others in the resource-rich northwestern province.
Authorities there are thought to have detained about a million people in re-education camps in recent years for “vocational training” to counter radicalism and separatism in Xinjiang.
The three senior officials named by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement were: Chen Quanguo, the communist party secretary of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and a member of the powerful Politburo; Zhu Hailun, party secretary of the Xinjiang political and legal committee; and Wang Mingshan, party secretary of the Xinjiang public security bureau.
Chen is the highest-ranking Chinese official ever to be hit by US sanctions. He is said to be the architect of China’s harsh policies against minorities, and was previously in charge in Tibet.
Former security official in Xinjiang, Huo Liujun has also been named in the list.
As a result of the US move, they and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into America. It is now a crime in the US to conduct financial transactions with all of them, and they will have their US-based assets frozen.
Responding to the US move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told media briefing in Beijing that the US decision amounted to “serious interference in China’s internal affairs and grave violation of basic norms guiding international relations.”
“Reacting to this wrong move, China has decided to impose reciprocal measures on US individuals and institutions with egregious behaviours on Xinjiang,” he said.