Published: Sun, March 17, 2019

USA mulls sanctions on Chinese officials over rights abuses in Xinjiang

USA mulls sanctions on Chinese officials over rights abuses in Xinjiang

On Thursday China attacked the USA for its record on gun deaths, racial discrimination and media freedom.

While the USA document also criticized countries such as Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, Pompeo said China was "in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations".

The State Department report said the Chinese government had in the past year significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.

One of the panelists, John Fisher, who heads Human Rights Watch's Geneva office, suggested Washington was partially to blame for the lack of broader global condemnation of the situation in Xinjiang.

Reuters reports Head of the State Department's human rights and democracy bureau Michael Kozak said the likes of the abuse China is inflicting on its minorities hasn't been seen since the 1930s-assumedly referring to the internment of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.

"Although it is speculative it seems appropriate to estimate that up to 1.5 million ethnic minorities - equivalent to just under one in six adult members of a predominantly Muslim minority group in Xinjiang - are or have been interned in any of these detention, internment and re-education facilities, excluding formal prisons", Zenz said at an event on Wednesday organized by the US mission in Geneva, home of United Nations human rights bodies.

Adrian Zenz, an independent researcher who focuses on China's ethnic policy, says China is interning ethnic minorities, separating families and sending children to state-run orphanages to maintain ideological control over them.

The Chinese government on Thursday issued its annual rebuttal to criticism from Washington about China's human rights record.

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Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the USA report was as usual filled with "ideological prejudice" and groundless accusations, and that China had lodged a complaint with Washington about it.

Zhang, who was born and raised in Xinjiang, cited detailed cases of how violence, terror and religious extremism have trampled the basic human rights of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang, including the rights to freedom of religious belief.

The last charge is sure to raise some eyebrows in Washington, as Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 45th and China 176th on its 180-country press freedom rating. "The government banned media outlets from covering the demonstrations".

US officials have said the Trump administration was considering sanctions targeting companies and officials linked to China's crackdown, including Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who, as a member of the powerful politburo, is in the upper echelons of China's leadership. The relatives and friends of overseas Uighur journalists reporting on the situation in Xinjiang have been detained, according to reports.

Human rights have always been a source of tension between the world's two largest economies, especially since 1989, when the United States imposed sanctions on China after a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

As part of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the side-event was sponsored by China's Permanent Mission to the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the China Society of Human Rights Studies.

But the ruling Communist party brooks no political dissent and Xi's administration has overseen a sweeping crackdown on human rights lawyers and activists.


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