U.S. is mulling over weighing sanctions against the Chinese companies and Chinese senior officials to penalize Beijing’s confinement of thousands of ethnic Uyghurs and other minority Muslims in large incarceration camps, stated the current and former U.S. officials.
It will be one of the first times that the Trump government has taken actions against China because of human rights violations. The officials are also planning to restrict American sales of surveillance technology that Chinese security companies and agencies are using to watch Uyghurs in northwest China.
The U.S. President until now had for the most part avoided penalizing China for its violation of human rights. If the imposition of sanctions is approved, it would fuel the already acrimonious tiff with Beijing concerning the trade and pressure on North Korea’s nuclear program.
A UN board met head-on with the Chinese diplomats in Geneva regarding the detentions. Legal scholars and human rights advocates acknowledge the ongoing mass detentions in the northwest region of Xinjiang as one of the worst collective abuse of human rights in China. After taking the reins in 2012, President Xi Jinping has coxswained China on an extremist pathway, including suppression of the major ethnic groups in western China, especially the Tibetans and Uyghurs.
The detainees in the camps are compelled to denounce aspects of Islam, pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party, attend daily classes and study mainstream Chinese culture.
The Chinese executives have stamped the process as “counter-extremism education” or “transformation through education”. However, they are still in denial about the large groups of Muslims being detained in the internment camps.
Ethnic Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking group that is chiefly Sunni Muslim. With a population count of 11 million, Uyghurs are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang. The desert oasis villages and towns that these Uyghurs consider as their homeland are being vacated by the security officers.
Chinese officials have talked about suppressing religious extremism, terrorism, and separatism in Xinjiang for many years. The ethnic violence began increasing in the region. The officials in response initiated mass suppression but not on large-scale. The large-scale camps were constructed post arrival of Chen Quanguo, party chief of Xinjiang.
Outlined on August 28’s letter, the congressional demand singled out Chen as one of the seven Chinese officials to be sanctioned.
Laura Stones, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs announced in April that the U.S. might possibly levy sanctions on Chinese regulators under the Global Magnitsky Act. The law permits the U.S. government to levy sanctions on foreign officials who have severely violated human rights.
The subject of the Uyghurs was first raised at the international minister level forum on global religious freedom in July that was presided over by Mike Pence and Pompeo. Pompeo wrote an op-ed prior to the meeting that cited Uyghurs as one of the several groups facing religious persecution. He further wrote, “These episodes and others like them are abhorrent.”
In a statement released last week, the State Department expressed their concerns by saying, “Officials are deeply troubled by the Chinese government’s worsening crackdown on Muslims. Credible reports indicate that individuals sent by Chinese authorities to detention centers since April 2017 numbers at least in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions.”
The U.S. has once used the Magnitsky Act to levy sanctions on a Chinese official. The Treasury Department declared sanctions against Gao Yan, a district police chief in Beijing when a human-right activist died in confinement.