Earlier this week, the United States Department of the Treasury announced that its Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned two Chinese government authorities responsible or complicit in the human rights violations taking place in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. The two individuals, who were also sanctioned by the European Union and Canada, include Wang Junzheng, Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, Director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. Director of the US Office of Foreign Assets Control, Andrea Gacki, stated that the Treasury is dedicated to pursuing justice and accountability for individuals and entities responsible for “human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.”
The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC) and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB), both of which were sanctioned as entities by the Treasury in July 2020, have already been found to be “responsible for, or complicit in, or..directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuses.” Notably, the XPCC, a paramilitary organization, is responsible for the construction and maintenance of detention centers throughout the province which arbitrarily imprison upwards of one million Uyghur and Turkic Muslims whose only crimes are that of their ethnic and spiritual identity. Moreover, the XPCC has on numerous occasions deployed security personnel to “tighten control” of ethnic minorities in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The XPSB, on the other end, is responsible for overseeing the predictive policing and surveillance of minorities in the region through its Integrated Joint Operations Program, which engages in biometric data gathering, racial profiling, and GPS tracking.
Similar to the United States, the European Union sanctioned Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo, as well as two other individuals: Wang Mingshan and Zhu Hailun, both of which had already previously been sanctioned by the US in July 2020. Canada announced sanctions on all four same individuals – Chen Mingguo, Wang Mingshan, Zhu Hailun, and Wang Junzheng – for their responsibility for “political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization.”
This is the first time that Canada, the EU, and the US have come together to level targeted sanctions against Chinese entities and officials, and the move has been welcomed gratefully by human rights activists and Uyghur diaspora organizations alike, many of whom urge further action:
“We applaud the United States and its partners for boldly standing up to the ruthless Chinese Communist regime that has committed such despicable acts against the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslim people. These concerted efforts in imposing sanctions against CCP officials both expose their crimes and provide much-needed encouragement to the Uyghurs and other freedom-loving people who are suffering under the CCP’s brutality” – Nury Turkel, Uyghur-American attorney and Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
“While the new EU sanctions are very important as the first concrete action taken by the EU to address the Uyghur genocide, the EU must apply this position consistently to its relations with China. The introduction of today’s sanctions do[es] not justify for the EU to take a weaker approach to other China-related policy areas such as the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) and European-wide mandatory due diligence legislation. Only a consistent human rights-based approach, in cooperation with international allies, will make concrete advances in ending the Uyghur genocide.” – World Uyghur Congress
“Unprecedented cooperation between governments like this is how genocide will be brought to an end. This is what Uyghurs have been asking for – the dam has broken and the response has finally begun.” – Omer Kanat, Executive Director, Uyghur Human Rights Project
“While we are thankful for these actions, sanctions alone are not enough. We urge Canada, the EU, UK, and the US to boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics, grant priority refugee status for Uyghurs and others fleeing the genocide, and bring the plight of East Turkistan to the agenda of the UN Security Council.” – Ghulam Osman Yaghma, President, East Turkistan Government in Exile
And, of course, to no surprise, the Chinese government has retaliated in the wake of the collaborative sanctions by leveling sanctions of their own against ten people and four entities of the EU for their actions which “severely harm China’s sovereignty and interests and maliciously spread lies and disinformation”. These sanctioned individuals include: Members of EU Parliament Reinhard Butikofer, Michael Gahler, Raphaël Glucksmann, Ilhan Kyuchyukm, and Miriam Lexmann; Member of Dutch Parliament Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma; Member of Belgian Parliament Samuel Cogolati; Member of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania Dovile Sakaliene; German scholar Dr. Adrian Zenz; and Swedish scholar Björn Jerdén. Sanctioned entities include: Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union; Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament; Mercator Institute for China Studies; Alliance of Democracies Foundation.
Organizations and international politicians have condemned China’s outright denial of human rights abuses:
“When China sanctions personalities and institutions (…) simply because they have spoken out critically against China, it is a clear attack on freedom of expression.” – Jeppe Kofod, Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu on Twitter informed sanctioned MEP Reinhard Bütikofer that in light of his sanctions and travel bans to China, Hong Kong, or Macau, he is always welcome to visit Taiwan:
“Mr. Butikofer, you’re doing great if a regime committing crimes against humanity imposes sanctions for championing freedom & human rights. Our democracy-loving people will welcome you with open arms if & when you visit #Taiwan.”