U.S. sanctions highest ranking Chinese official yet over Uighur rights
10 Jul 2020

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on the highest ranking Chinese official yet targeted over alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority, a move likely to further ratchet up tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Washington blacklisted Xinjiang region’s Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful Politburo, and three other officials. The highly anticipated action followed months of Washington’s hostility towards Beijing over China’s handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and its tightening grip on Hong Kong.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters after the announcements described Chen as the highest ranking Chinese official ever sanctioned by the United States.

The blacklisting is “no joke,” he said. “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 Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. But China has denied mistreatment of Uighur Muslims and says the camps provide vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

The sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators worldwide by freezing any U.S. assets, banning U.S. travel and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

Sanctions were also imposed on Zhu Hailun, a former deputy party secretary 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 barring Chen, Zhu, Wang and their immediate families, as well as other unnamed Chinese Communist Party officials, from travelling to the United States.

U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who sponsored legislation signed by U.S. President Donald Trump in June that calls for sanctions over the repression of Uighurs, told Reuters the move was “long overdue” and that more steps were needed.

“For far too long, Chinese officials have not been held accountable for committing atrocities that likely constitute crimes against humanity,” Rubio said.

By Daphne Psaledakis, Alexandra Alper and Matt Spetalnick, Reuters, 9 July 2020

Read more at Reuters

Photo: Gustavo Jeronimo [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

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