US hits two Chinese officials with sanctions over Uighur abuses

By: AFP      Published: 06:02 PM, 23 Mar, 2021
US hits two Chinese officials with sanctions over Uighur abuses
File pic of a demo in favor of Uighurs.

The US Treasury Department placed sanctions Monday on two senior Chinese officials for what it called "serious human rights abuses" against Uighurs and other minorities in the country's Xinjiang region.

"Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang," said Andrea Gacki, the Treasury official overseeing the sanctions program.

The sanctions targeted Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Chinese Communist Party committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

The Treasury action was part of a coordinated effort by the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States to raise the pressure on Beijing for putting more than one million Xinjiang citizens, mostly Muslim Uighurs, in prison camps, and using many in forced labor programs.

Britain, Canada and the European Union also targeted with sanctions Wang Mingshan, a former director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, and Zhu Hailun, a Chinese Communist Party official behind the "re-education" camps.

Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement the sanctions underscore "grave concerns with the ongoing human rights violations" in Xinjiang.

He cited "mounting evidence" pointing to "systemic, state-led human rights violations by Chinese authorities," including mass detentions of ethnic minorities, as well as "political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization."

The Treasury said in a statement the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps is a paramilitary group that advances Beijing's tough controls on the region, in parallel with the Public Security Bureau.

"The Chinese government treats almost all expressions of faith as a sign of religious 'extremism' or ethnic separatism," the Treasury said.

Targets of Beijing's operations in Xinjiang "are often detained and reportedly subjected to various methods of torture and 'political re-education,'" it said.

The sanctions seek to block those named from doing business with Americans and accessing the global financial system, and freezes any assets they might have under US jurisdiction.