Human Rights

United States, Canada, EU issue sanctions against China for Uighur genocide


After years of inaction, world leaders are finally taking action against China. An international coalition — including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and other European countries — has issued sanctions against China for the ongoing genocide against the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. This action triggered immediate retaliation.

The United States announced the sanctions today, which were coordinated with similar sanctions from Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union (EU). “Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang,” noted Andrea M. Gacki, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department. “Treasury is committed to promoting accountability for the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities.”

Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, specifically described the abuses against the Uighurs as a genocide. “Amid growing international condemnation, the PRC continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Blinken’s statement read. “The United States reiterates its calls on the PRC to bring an end to the repression of Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, including by releasing all those arbitrarily held in internment camps and detention facilities.”

He further added that working together with international allies “demonstrate[s] our ongoing commitment to working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights and shining a light on those in the PRC government and CCP responsible for these atrocities.”

READ: ‘Architects of a genocide’: Independent report condemns China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims

President Joe Biden is allegedly pushing for more international leaders to join in standing against China. Biden is hoping to continue the reinvigoration of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or The Quad — which includes Japan, India, and Australia — after President Donald Trump began working to bring the alliance back. “China’s aggression in Ladakh was a major catalyst in India not just coming fully on board but agreeing to lend a public military angle to the Quad,” Brahma Chellaney, of the Centre for Policy Research, told the Financial Times.

The move to issue sanctions against China is especially notable for the EU; these are their first sanctions against China since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Travel bans and asset freezes were placed on four Chinese officials, all believed to be complicit in the genocide. “As long as human rights are being violated, I cannot stay silent. These sanctions prove that China is sensitive to pressure. Let this be an encouragement to all my European colleagues: Speak out!” Dutch lawmaker Sjoerd Sjoerdsma said on Twitter. All 27 EU member governments agreed to the sanctions against China.

China, meanwhile, retaliated almost immediately with sanctions of its own. Ten EU politicians and four entities will be banned from entering mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, and any related companies or institutions will not be allowed to conduct business with China. “The Chinese government is firmly determined to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests,” a statement from China read. “The Chinese side urges the EU side to reflect on itself, face squarely the severity of its mistake and redress it. It must stop lecturing others on human rights and interfering in their internal affairs.”

David Sassoli, EU president, said that China’s retaliatory sanctions are unacceptable, and will have consequences.

In a statement, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse applauded the sanctions, but also warned that they might not be enough. “Chairman Xi has blood on his hands,” Sasse said. “The atrocities committed against the Uyghurs in the Xinjiang province are horrific — rape, torture, and slave labor are the Chinese Communist Party’s weapons. America and our allies are stepping up. Magnitsky sanctions are important, but we cannot relent as long as the genocide continues. The free world must do everything in our power to end these human rights abuses and put Chairman Xi in his place.”

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