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U.S. sanctions Chinese officials over Uighur human rights abuses

U.S. sanctions Chinese officials over Uighur human rights abuses
Southern Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur, Japanese and Hong Kong protesters rally against the government of the Chinese Communist Party in  Tokyo last October.  File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

March 22 (UPI) -- The United States sanctioned Chinese officials Monday over human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities.

The U.S. Department of Treasury issued the sanctions against two Chinese government officials under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for human rights abuses against the Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim population indigenous to Xinjiang, and other ethnic minorities in the region.

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Wang Junzheng, secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, were sanctioned for their roles in the abuses, according to the U.S. Treasury Department's statement.

"Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang," Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki said in the statement. "Treasury is committed to promoting accountability for the Chinese government's human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities."

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The European Union, Britain and Canada also imposed sanctions Monday for the same abuses, according to the statement.

The South China Morning Post reported that China responded immediately with sanctions on 10 European individuals and four entities, including diplomats, elected officials and academics, after the European Union confirmed its first sanctions on Chinese officials since 1989.

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China sanctioned five European Parliament members: Reinhard Butikofer, Michael Gahler, Raphael Glucksmann, Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Miriam Lexmann. It also targeted parliamentarians Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma, of the Netherlands, Samuel Cogolati, of Belgium, and Dovile Sakaliene, of Lithuania. China also hit two scholars with the sanctions -- Adrian Zenz of Germany and Bjorn Jerden of Sweden.

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"Attacking freely elected members of parliament shows us the contempt Beijing has for democracy," Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People's Party, the largest grouping in European Parliament told the South China Morning Post. "We will not be intimidated. The EU measures against China have our full support."

China also targeted four EU entities with sanctions, including the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the EU, the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Mercator Institute for China Studies think tank in Germany and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark.

The EU sanctions targeted four Chinese officials, including Zhu Hailun, a former secretary of Xinjiang's Political and Legal Affairs Committee, Junzheng, also targeted by the U.S. sanctions, Wang Mingshan, a member of the party standing committee in Xinjiang, and Mingguo, also targeted by U.S. sanctions. The EU also sanctioned the XPCC Public Security Bureau as an entity for the serious human rights abuses.

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Europe last targeted China with sanctions by imposing an arms embargo after the violent crackdown on Tiananmen Square in 1989.

In July, the U.S. Treasury Department also issued sanctions against the XPCC entity, Sun Jinlong, a former political commissioner of the XPCC, and Peng Jiarui, deputy party secretary and commander of the XPCC, over the same human rights abuses under the Magnitsky Act.

"As previously stated, the United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world," then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement at the time.

China responded with sanctions against Republican Sens. Marc Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., in response to the U.S. sanctions in July.

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