Australia, New Zealand Offer Statement While Allies Sanction Chinese Officials

March 23, 2021 Updated: March 24, 2021

Australia and New Zealand have joined together to release a statement expressing their grave concerns about the severe human rights abuses against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, China.

This comes after the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union jointly unveiled parallel Magnitsky-style sanctions on six Chinese officials.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a joint statement that they welcome the measures announced by the group of Western allies.

“We share these countries’ deep concerns, which are held across the Australian and New Zealand communities,” they said on March 23.

Payne and Mahuta said there was clear evidence of severe human rights abuses in Xinjiang that include “restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation.”

“Since 2018, when reports began to emerge about the detention camps in Xinjiang, Australia and New Zealand have consistently called on China in the United Nations to respect the human rights of the Uighur people and other religious and ethnic minorities.

“Today, we underscore the importance of transparency and accountability and reiterate our call on China to grant meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for United Nations experts and other independent observers,” they said.

International Response to Uyghur Genocide

On March 22, the United States announced sanctions on two Chinese officials, Wang Junzheng, secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

The two were targeted under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which will block their U.S.-linked assets.

While the United States’ actions avoided targeting China’s top leadership, this is the first coordinated move under the Biden administration, which took office in January to push back against the CCP.

The move follows two days of “tough and direct” talks between U.S. and Chinese officials last week in Alaska, which laid bare the depth of tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

“Amid growing international condemnation, [China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who took part in last week’s talks, said in a statement while calling on Beijing to end the repression of Uyghurs and other minority groups.

This builds on the Trump administration’s groundwork, which imposed sanctions on Xinjiang‘s Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful Politburo, and five other officials in July last year. It was also on Trump’s final days in office that the U.S. government officially recognised the Uyghur genocide.

UK and EU Sanctions

The United Kingdom and the European Union also targeted the same four Chinese officials, in their first Magnitsky style sanctions, along with the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, the policing department of the organisation.

The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement: “The UK will, for the first time, impose asset freezes and travel bans against four Chinese government officials, as well as a Xinjiang security body, under the UK’s Global Human Rights sanctions regime for systemic violations against Uyghurs and other minorities.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “I can tell the House today that I’m designating four senior individuals responsible for the violations that have taken place—and persist—against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.”

“The evidence of widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang cannot be ignored—including mass detention and surveillance, reports of torture and forced sterilisation,” Raab said in the FCDO statement. “Working with our international partners, we are imposing targeted sanctions to hold those responsible to account.”

Zhu Hailun, former secretary of Xinjiang’s Political and Legal Affairs Committee, was described by the EU as the “architect” of the “large-scale surveillance, detention, and indoctrination programme targeting Uyghurs and people from other Muslim ethnic minorities.”

The list also includes Wang Junzheng, Communist Party chief of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a state-owned economic and paramilitary organisation.

In addition to implementing the mass detention programme in the XUAR, the EU said Wang is also “responsible for the XPCC’s systematic use of Uyghurs and people from other Muslim ethnic minorities as a forced workforce, in particular in cotton fields.”

The two other sanctioned individuals are Wang Mingshan, secretary of the Political and Legal Affairs Committee, who served as Xinjiang’s police chief, and Chen Mingguo, the current police chief.

Apart from being directly responsible for the mass detentions, they have been linked to Xinjiang police’s “Integrated Joint Operations Platform,” an extensive data programme used to track millions of Uyghurs in the region and flag those deemed “potentially threatening” to be sent to detention camps, the EU said.

Reuters and Epoch Times reporter Alexander Zhang contributed to this article.

Follow Caden on Twitter: @cadenpearson