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US, Allies Slap Sanctions on China Over Xinjiang Uyghur ‘Genocide’

The United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom announced sanctions on several Chinese officials Monday in retaliation for what they described as human-rights abuses against Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.

The U.S. sanctions, which arrive just days after the Biden administration traded barbs with Chinese diplomats in Alaska, target 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, under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the executive branch to impose economic penalties in response to human-rights violations. They also restrict travel and freeze any property and assets the officials hold in the United States, according to the Treasury Department.

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

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions are part of the United States’ desire to fulfill a “strong leadership role in global efforts to combat serious human-rights abuse,“ such as those occurring in Xinjiang.

“Amid growing international condemnation, the [People’s Republic of China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” 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.“

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The U.S. measure occurred in tandem with similar ones by Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom, which took aim at four Chinese officials and a Xinjiang public security bureau. Beijing immediately responded with its own sanctions against 10 Europeans, including members of the European Parliament, and derided the EU’s action as “based on nothing but lies and disinformation.”

This coordinated effort, the nations said in a joint statement, seeks to send a “clear message” to China that the human-rights abuses will not be tolerated by the international community.

Furthermore, by moving “in solidarity” with the other countries, the United States demonstrates its “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.

“A united transatlantic response sends a strong signal to those who violate or abuse international human rights, and we will take further actions in coordination with like-minded partners,” he said. “We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to the PRC’s crimes and for justice for the many victims.”

The American Apparel & Footwear Association, Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the U.S. Fashion Industry Association applauded the announcement, noting that they have “consistently called for such a holistic approach.”

“Today’s announcement recognizes that no single country and no single approach will stop the persecution of Uyghurs,” the joint statement noted. “All stakeholders must play an active role to bring the current genocide to an end.”

The business community has spent the last two years “working to end any nexus with Xinjiang or with Uyghurs trafficked to other parts of China in order to undercut one component of the campaign of oppression against Uyghurs—forced labor,” they added. “And we continue to work with the U.S. government and Congress to implement an effective and enforceable strategy to address forced labor in and related to Xinjiang.”