Dhaka, Bangladesh
US imposes sanctions on Chinese officials

US imposes sanctions on Chinese officials

The Trump administration imposed sanctions Thursday on multiple officials from China, including a senior member of the Communist Party, over human rights abuses against the largely Muslim Uighur minority, a move that is likely to inflame tensions between Washington and Beijing. The targets of the sanctions included Chen Quanguo - a member of China's 25-member ruling Politburo and party secretary of the Xinjiang region - and is likely to anger top officials in the Communist Party given his stature. Other officials penalized include Zhu Hailun, a former deputy party secretary for the region; Wang Mingshan, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau; and Huo Liujun, a former party secretary of the bureau. The bureau also faces sanctions, reports The New York Times. In recent months, Trump administration officials have criticised Beijing for its response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as its efforts to suppress pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong and its mass detention of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities. "The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Thursday, referring to the Chinese Communist Party. Representatives from the Chinese Embassy did not immediately return a request for comment. The sanctions against Chinese officials were levied under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which was passed in 2016 and gives the United States the ability to impose human rights penalties on foreign officials. But the measures appear largely to be symbolic, as none of the officials are likely to hold significant assets outside China. The move also comes after talks first arose in 2018 within the Trump administration to punish senior Chinese officials and companies for the detention of ethnic Uighurs and other minority Muslims in large internment camps. But those discussions languished as trade advisers in the administration tried to negotiate an end to the trade war with Beijing. For purposes of his reelection campaign, President Donald Trump was focused on securing a deal that would include a commitment by China to increase its purchases of American agricultural products, according to a recent book by John Bolton, the former national security adviser, and private accounts by other officials. Trump showed no qualms about prioritizing trade talks with China while ignoring human rights abuses in the country. He even told President Xi Jinping of China to continue building the internment camps used to detain Muslims - "which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do," according to Bolton's book. In October 2019, the Trump administration imposed visa restrictions on some Chinese officials and import controls on certain organizations in the western region of Xinjiang. While those were the first punishments imposed by any government in relation to the vast human rights abuses there, they were fairly weak even though some US officials have advocated harsher measures. The actions Thursday target a cluster of officials who played a major role in devising and enforcing policies in Xinjiang that have detained hundreds of thousands - some estimates put it at more than 1 million - members of largely Muslim ethnic minorities in indoctrination camps, while also smothering those groups under a net of surveillance. Rayhan Asat, a Uighur lawyer who is a US resident in Washington, said sanctions imposed under the Magnitsky Act allowed the United States to hold Chinese officials accountable for what she called genocide in Xinjiang. Her younger brother, Ekpar Asat, was detained by security officials after he returned to Xinjiang in 2016 following a visit to the United States on a State Department cultural exchange programme. He was reportedly sentenced to 15 years in prison on criminal charges.

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