US Sanctions 2 More Chinese Officials, Paramilitary Group for Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang

US Sanctions 2 More Chinese Officials, Paramilitary Group for Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang
This photo taken on June 4, 2019 shows police officers patrolling in Kashgar, in China's western Xinjiang region. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)
Cathy He

The United States imposed sanctions on two more Chinese officials and one Chinese regime entity over human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minorities in the far-western region of Xinjiang.

The Trump administration on July 31 announced sanctions on current and former Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials heading the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a regional paramilitary force under the Party, as well as the XPCC itself.

The latest move builds upon sanctions issued earlier this month against four CCP officials—including a member of the CCP’s powerful Politburo Chen Quanguo—for their roles in overseeing the suppression in Xinjiang.

The United Nations estimates that more than a million Uyghurs have been detained in internment camps in the Xinjiang region. Survivors of the internment camps said they experienced torture, rape, and political indoctrination while detained. Xinjiang residents are also subject to an expansive system of surveillance through a network of AI-enhanced security cameras, checkpoints, and the collection of biometric data.

XPCC; Sun Jinlong, former Party Secretary of the XPCC; and Peng Jiarui, the Deputy Party Secretary of the XPCC were sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act, a federal law that allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators around the world with freezes on U.S. assets and prohibitions on Americans doing business with them.

These designations also mean that Sun and Peng will be restricted from being able to travel to the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said regarding the latest sanctions: “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world.”

Chen, sanctioned earlier this month, is the Party Secretary for the Xinjiang region, and also the First Party Secretary of the XPCC.

In his roles, Chen imposed “a comprehensive surveillance, detention, and indoctrination program in Xinjiang, targeting Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minorities. The XPCC has been directly involved in implementing these measures,” Pompeo explained.

“The XPCC enhances internal control over the region by advancing China’s vision of economic development...that emphasizes subordination to central planning and resource extraction,” a Treasury Department statement said.

“The XPCC’s structure reflects a military organization, with 14 divisions made up of dozens of regiments.”

The Trump administration also previously added 37 Chinese companies and government entities on a trade blacklist over their role in aiding human rights abuses and surveillance in Xinjiang.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) welcomed the new sanctions, saying, “Any individual linked to the human rights abuses against Uyghur and other Turkic minorities must be held accountable.”

“The XPCC’s role in forced labor should serve as a warning to any company with supply chains in Xinjiang,” Rubio said in an emailed statement.

Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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