“Concern regarding China’s human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang” was expressed by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and his British and Canadian counterparts on March 22. In a joint four-paragraph statement, the diplomats condemned China’s treatment of its predominately Muslim Uyghur (also spelt Uighur) population. The document accused China of "forced labor, mass detention in internment camps, forced sterilizations and the concerted destruction of Uyghur heritage." However, it did not go as far as to describe China's actions as "genocide." The document can be viewed in its entirety at online and also at the Canadian Foreign Ministry website.

In their statement, the diplomats said the proof of China's misdeeds was "overwhelming." The diplomats also said they would not cease "to shine a spotlight on China's human rights violations."

'Coordinated action'

In their statement, the diplomats spoke of "coordinated action" which would complement actions taken in Europe. That same day, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that sanctions were being placed on two Chinese officials "in connection with serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR)." The department said these actions were in line with measures taken that day by the U.K., Canada and the European Union.

The Treasury Department's statement can be found online.

According to the statement, the two Chinese officials singled out by the Treasury Department are:

  • Wang Junzheng, of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC). The XPCC is "a paramilitary organization... that is subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party," the Treasury Department said.
  • Chen Mingguo, of the Xinjiang Public Secuity Bureau (XPSB). The Treasury Department said the XPSB had used "repressive tactics... against the Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities in the region, including mass detentions and surveillance."

In the statement, the Treasury Department explained that the sanctions would block the assets of the two officials and would prohibit Americans from doing business with them.

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Pompeo sees Blinken continuing Trump's approach to China

The actions against China came soon after the March 18-19 Anchorage meeting between Blinken and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

Shortly before that meeting, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quoted by Newsweek as praising Blinken for continuing the tough approach to China which had been initiated by Donald Trump.

China hits back with travel bans

Hours after the sanctions were made known, China retaliated with travel bans on ten European individuals, according to the Financial Times. The paper said that the Chinese government said the sanctions from the European Union had been “based on nothing but lies and disinformation.”