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US sanctions, bans from America a Chinese agency and 4 officials over human rights abuses

Uyghur People Demand Freedom with Flag of East Turkestan in front of the U.N. (SFT HQ/WikiCommons)
July 09, 2020

On Thursday the U.S. Treasury implemented sanctions against one Chinese agency and four current or former government officials over their connections to human rights abuses against the Uyghur ethnic minority group in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), as well as other ethnic minorities groups in the region such as the ethnic Kazakhs and Kyrgyz.

The Treasury released a statement naming the sanctioned individuals and entity. The sanctions target Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB), the former and current director of that Chinese agency, the current secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for the XUAR and a former Deputy Party Secretary of the XUAR.

“The entity and officials are being designated for their connection to serious human rights abuse against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, which reportedly include mass arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse, among other serious abuses targeting Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim population indigenous to Xinjiang, and other ethnic minorities in the region,” the Treasury statement read.

The U.S. sanctions against the four individuals and the XPSB, allows for the U.S. to freeze all their assets that are currently in the U.S. or under the management of any U.S. persons. The sanctions also block U.S. individuals from exchanging funds or goods and services with those sanctioned. The U.S. State Department, also announcing the sanctions against China indicated in a Thursday statement that those actions also block the sanctioned individuals and their immediate family members from entering the U.S.

Listing the sanctioned individuals, the Treasury said Chen Quanquo, the CCP Secretary of the XUAR, was appointed to his position overseeing the Uyghurs after earning a “notorious” reputation for intensifying security operations against another ethnic minority group, the Tibetans in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.

The Treasury announced Zhu Hailun, a former Deputy Party Secretary of the XUAR, would also face sanctions. Though he left office in 2019, the Treasury noted Zhu was responsible for maintaining internal security and law enforcement in the XUAR. Upon Zhu’s arrival to the position in 2016, the Treasury said he and Chen began implementing China’s camp system to detain, surveil and indoctrinate ethnic Uyghurs.

“Chen’s plans, the large-scale construction of mass detention camps, labelled ‘training centers,’ greatly escalated in 2017, and as the Party Secretary of the XPLC, Zhu established the policies and procedures for managing these detention camps with the purported goal of using the camps to fight terrorism and maintain stability,” The Treasury statement read. “Zhu’s policies outlined how the detention camps would operate, to include not allowing ‘escapes’ and ‘abnormal deaths.’ At the same time, former detainees of these detention camps report that deaths occurred among fellow detainees after torture and abuse at the hands of the security officials.”

The Treasury announced it was also sanctioning Huo Liuju, the former head of the sanctioned XPSB, and Wang Mingshan, the new head of the same Chinese security agency in Xianjing. The Treasury assessed both men and the XPSB as an organization were responsible for implementing the “Integrated Joint Operations Platform” (IJOP), an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-assisted computer system to create biometric records for millions of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

“IJOP uses this data to determine which persons could be potential threats; according to reports, some of these individuals are subsequently detained and sent to detention camps, being held indefinitely without charges or trial,” the Treasury stated. “The IJOP AI platform is one of the first examples of governments using AI for racial profiling.”