The United States Treasury Department on Friday imposed sanctions on a Chinese government entity and two officials related to it for alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other ethnic minority people in China’s Xinjiang province.
The move marks yet another escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing and came a week after US President Donald Trump closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, prompting China to shutter the US consulate in Chengdu.
Friday’s move saw the US Treasury blacklist the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, also known as XPCC, along with Sun Jinlong, former party secretary of the XPCC, and Peng Jiarui, deputy party secretary and commander of the XPCC.
“The entity and officials are being designated for their connection to serious human rights abuse against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, which reportedly include mass arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse, among other serious abuses targeting Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim population indigenous to Xinjiang, and other ethnic minorities in the region,” said a statement on the Treasury website.
“The XPCC is a paramilitary organization in the XUAR that is subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” the Treasury statement continued. “The XPCC enhances internal control over the region by advancing China’s vision of economic development in XUAR that emphasizes subordination to central planning and resource extraction.”
Washington’s action freezes any US assets of the company and officials and generally prohibits Americans from dealing with them. The Treasury also issued a license on Friday, authorising certain wind-down and divestment transactions and activities related to blocked subsidiaries of the XPCC until September 30.
The Trump administration’s latest salvo against Beijing is happening three weeks after Washington imposed sanctions on the autonomous region of Xinjiang’s Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of China’s powerful Politburo, and three other officials.
Chen was described as the highest-ranking Chinese official the US has sanctioned.
The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps is a quasi-military group. Created in 1954, it was initially made up of demobilised soldiers who spent part of their time in military training and the rest turning the region’s arid land into farms.
Civilian members from eastern China later joined the corps, and it now numbers 3.11 million people, or more than 12 percent of the region’s population. It is almost entirely made up of Han Chinese in a region that is home to the Muslim Uighur people.
Experts have said the group is like a “state within a state” and has established new cities in the region with schools and universities and jurisdiction over police and courts.
China denies that Uighurs are unfairly marginalised, and says it is addressing underdevelopment and lack of jobs in Uighur areas.