An American committee seeks reasons for not imposing sanctions on Xinjiang


Written by Michael Martina

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States should fully implement sanctions on China over its policies in Xinjiang, a U.S. Congressional panel told the State Department, asking why Washington has not yet placed restrictions on some officials linked to abuses in the Chinese region.

Congress in recent years has passed laws to pressure China over what the State Department says is the ongoing genocide of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

But the House Select Committee on China said in a letter that the Biden administration had not issued sanctions under one of those laws — the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act (UHRPA) passed in 2020 — that would require the US president, absent a waiver, to identify and punish Chinese officials. Those responsible for the violations.

Beijing denies committing any abuses in Xinjiang.

The United States has imposed sanctions on a number of Chinese officials and entities linked to Xinjiang under various channels, including the Global Magnitsky Act and by executive order, measures that activists say are insufficient for the scale of the atrocities committed.

“The United States must take action to hold perpetrators of PRC crimes accountable, thereby discouraging further human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other groups,” Mike Gallagher, the committee’s chairman, said in a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Some experts in Xinjiang say the alleged mass internment of Uyghurs peaked in 2018, but abuses have continued as forced labor and labor transfers have become more visible.

The letter, dated September 19, asked Blinken and Mayorkas to explain why they should not impose sanctions on certain Chinese officials, including Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Ma Xingrui, given their role in formulating and implementing China’s crackdown.

It also asked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to explain why dozens of companies linked to Xinjiang were not added to the entity list under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that would ban their imports.

The State Department has long considered imposing sanctions under the UHRPA, but Reuters reported in May that related measures were among policies delayed in the wake of a diplomatic crisis sparked by the U.S. shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon suspected of flying over U.S. territory earlier this year.

The Biden administration says it never attacks China, but senior officials have gotten the importance of “cascading” policies right.

“This administration has used, and will continue to use, a variety of diplomatic tools and tactics to advance accountability for the People’s Republic of China’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang,” a State Department spokesperson said. He said.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Xinjiang in August and said maintaining social stability was a top priority, comments that activists saw as a doubling down on his plan.

“(Xi) feels no pressure to pretend they are doing anything other than continuing down this path,” said Julie Millsap of the Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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