The United States said Tuesday it would curb visas for Chinese officials until Beijing ends its “repression” of Uighurs and other Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, a day after imposing commercial restrictions.
The one-two punch by President Donald Trumps administration marks the most forceful attempt by a foreign power to address what some rights groups call a historic crisis in Xinjiang, and comes amid a range of feuds between the United States and China.
“China has forcibly detained over one million Muslims in a brutal, systematic campaign to erase religion and culture in Xinjiang,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
“China must end its draconian surveillance and repression, release all those arbitrarily detained and cease its coercion of Chinese Muslims abroad,” he said.
Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 8, 2019
In an accompanying statement, Pompeo said that the State Department would restrict visas granted to government and ruling Communist Party officials involved in "detention or abuse" of Uighurs, Kazakhs or members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic groups in Xinjiang.
The order will also affect their family members, including children who may be seeking to study in the United States.
The State Department said it could not specify which officials were affected due to US confidentiality laws.
But lawmakers have specifically asked for action against Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party chief for Xinjiang.
Reputed within the party for his handling of minority groups, he earlier led iron-fisted policies aimed at crushing dissent in Tibet.
Defying Chinese protests
China voiced anger at the move, denying any human rights abuses in Xinjiang and accusing the United States of using "made-up pretexts for its interference".
“The counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang are aimed to eradicate the breeding soil of extremism and terrorism,” the Chinese embassy in Washington said on Twitter.
“They are in line with Chinese laws and international practices, and are supported by all 25 million people of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang,” it said.
The counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures in Xinjiang are aimed to eradicate the breeding soil of extremism and terrorism. They are in line with Chinese laws and international practices,and are supported by all 25 million people of various ethnic groups in Xinjiang.3/4
Chinese Embassy in US (@ChineseEmbinUS) October 8, 2019
The visa step came hours after China issued a similar protest over action by the US Commerce Department.
It blacklisted 28 Chinese entities including video surveillance firm Hikvision and artificial intelligence companies Megvii Technology and SenseTime over their involvement in Xinjiang.
Rights groups say more than one million Uighurs and other Muslims are being held in a vast network of camps in Xinjiang aimed at homogenizing the population to reflect Chinas majority Han culture.
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