The Chinese government has announced sanctions against US officials, including Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, in response to US sanctions for Beijing’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang province.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said retaliatory sanctions will apply from Monday, but did not elaborate on what it would entail.
The sanctions apply to Rubio y Cruz, his Republican political colleagues Samuel Brownback and Chris Smith, and the United States Congress Executive Commission on China, which monitors and reports on human rights and the rule of law in China.
The announcement is largely symbolic, given that US officials have little financial or legal exposure in China.
On Friday, the United States imposed sanctions against a Chinese government entity and four senior Chinese officials, including an acting member of the ruling politburo, under the Magnitsky Act. The sanctions included freezing US assets and travel, and a ban on Americans doing business with people.
“The entity and officials are being appointed for its connection to serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, which reportedly include mass arbitrary arrest and severe physical abuse, among other serious abuses against the Uighurs, a Muslim population. Turkish Xinjiang indigenous, and other ethnic minorities in the region, ”the US Treasury said in a statement on Friday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States will not “stand idly by as the Chinese Communist Party commits human rights abuses.”
Beijing has been accused of detaining approximately 1 million people in Xinjiang re-education camps and jails, which it claims are job training centers designed to ward people off from terrorism.
Those incarcerated are forced to denounce their language and religion, and their children are placed in orphanages, according to families and investigators. Last week, a German investigation said authorities were carrying out the forced sterilization of women in the region.
Hua called the United States sanctions “serious interference in China’s internal affairs, serious violation of the basic rules that govern international relations and serious damage to relations between China and the United States.” She said the United States had no right and that it was not in a position to intervene in Xinjiang, which was “entirely a matter for China.”
Relations between the United States and China are at an all-time low, and the United States has stepped up its vocal and real opposition to China’s actions, particularly in Xinjiang, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where Beijing imposed national security laws this month.
China has repeatedly threatened “countermeasures” against the US and other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, which criticized Beijing and promised assistance to Hong Kong people to flee its increasing control. The laws, which have been criticized as broad and ill-defined, have had a chilling effect on the legal, media, academic and business communities in Hong Kong, as well as the general population.
On Monday, the United States Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said it had surveyed its members and that almost 70% were more concerned about the laws than a month ago, and more than 50% felt less secure.
About 52% of respondents said they were individually considering leaving Hong Kong because of the laws. However, more than 64% also said their company was not considering moving capital, assets, or business operations.
“The legislation is extremely broad and could be used for anything,” said one respondent. “As a framing, almost anything could be interpreted as a threat to ‘national security’ and any discussion, conversations with foreign people could be interpreted as collusion with foreign powers.”