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China threatens retaliation against US for new Uyghur sanctions

President of China Xi Jinping. (Kremlin/Released)
March 22, 2022

China threatened on Tuesday to implement “reciprocal countermeasures” against the U.S. for imposing new visa restrictions on Chinese officials on Monday for their alleged involvement in human rights abuses against Uyghurs.

On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new visa restrictions on People’s Republic of China (PRC) officials “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, policies or actions aimed at repressing religious and spiritual practitioners, members of ethnic minority groups, dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists, labor organizers, civil society organizers, and peaceful protestors in China and beyond.”

“We again call on the PRC government to cease its acts of transnational repression, including attempting to silence Uyghur American activists and other Uyghur individuals serving the American people by denying exit permission to their family members in China,” Blinken said. “The United States reaffirms its support for those who bravely speak out despite the threat of retaliation. We call on the PRC government to end its ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, repressive policies in Tibet, crackdown on fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, and human rights violations and abuses, including violations of religious freedom, elsewhere in the country.”

When asked to respond to the new U.S. sanctions on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the U.S. sanctions move is “full of ideological bias and political lies.” Wang also said the U.S. is guilty of committing the worst human rights violations in history, citing the slaughter and expulsion of Native Americans, the U.S. handling of COVID-19 and “persistent and systemic racial discrimination.”

“We urge the US to earnestly reflect upon and rectify its numerous crimes. In the meantime, it should view China’s human rights situation in an objective and just manner, stop denigrating and suppressing the Chinese side and immediately revoke its so-called sanctions against Chinese officials. Otherwise, the Chinese side shall take reciprocal countermeasures in response.”

Human rights groups have assessed China is holding about 1.8 million ethnic minority Uyghurs in internment camps in its western Xinjiang region. U.S. officials have accused China of using the Uyghur population for forced labor and committing genocide with “coercive population control measures” like forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced birth control, and the removal of children from their families.

Chinese students have also been accused of harassing Uyghur students on college campuses in the U.S.

China has denied any wrongdoing against the Uyghurs. Chinese state media have claimed the alleged internment camps are actually education and job training centers employed as part of a larger counter-terrorism effort, while forced labor is actually a poverty alleviation program for the Uyghurs.