Washington says Beijing’s tit-for-tat sanctions will only focus attention on its ‘genocide’ against Uighurs
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has warned that China’s tit-for-tat sanctions against two Americans in the growing dispute over Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs were “baseless” and would only shine a harsh spotlight on the “genocide” in Xinjiang.
“Beijing’s attempts to intimidate and silence those speaking out for human rights and fundamental freedoms only contribute to the growing international scrutiny of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Blinken said in a statement on Saturday.
He spoke out after China announced sanctions against two Americans, a Canadian and a rights advocacy body, in response to sanctions imposed this week by the two countries over Beijing’s treatment of the Uighur minority.
Blinken called the sanctions on the two members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom “baseless”.
At least one million Uighurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in China’s Xinjiang region, according to rights groups, who accuse authorities of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labor.
The EU, Britain, Canada and the US have sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic hierarchy in coordinated action over the allegations, prompting retaliation from Beijing in the form of sanctions on individuals from the EU and Britain.
“We stand in solidarity with Canada, the UK, the EU, and other partners and allies around the world in calling on the PRC to end the human rights violations and abuses against predominantly Muslim Uighurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang and to release those arbitrarily detained,” Blinken said.
Blinken’s statement came after Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, denounced Beijing and vowed to defend human rights.
Trudeau called the Chinese sanctions “unacceptable actions”.
“We will continue to defend human rights around the world with our international partners,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
China sanctioned Canadian opposition lawmaker Michael Chong, vice-chair of a parliamentary sub-committee on international human rights, which this month presented a report concluding that atrocities in Xinjiang constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.
Beijing also said it will take measures against the chair and vice-chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins.
The individuals under Beijing’s sanctions are banned from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with the three individuals or having any exchanges with the subcommittee.
“The Chinese government is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and urges the relevant parties to clearly understand the situation and redress their mistakes,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.
“They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form and refrain from going farther down the wrong path. Otherwise they will get their fingers burnt.”
China’s previous sanctions on US individuals who it says have seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and interests on Xinjiang-related issues remain in effect.
Chong, who is a member of the opposition Conservative party in Canada, said he would “wear (the sanctions) as a badge of honour”.
“This demonstrates that parliamentarians are being effective in drawing attention to the genocide of the Uighur people that is taking place in western China,” Chong said in a telephone interview.
Chong urged the Trudeau government to “officially recognise the Uighur genocide,” and said the sanctions would have no practical effect because he had no plans to travel to China.