US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned that China’s tit-for-state sanctions against two Americans in the growing dispute over Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs were “baseless” and would only shine the spotlight on the “genocide” in Xinjiang.
“Beijing’s attempts to intimidate and silence those who defend human rights and fundamental freedoms only contribute to the growing international scrutiny of the genocide and crimes against humanity underway in Xinjiang,” Blinken said in a statement on Saturday.
He spoke after China announced sanctions against two Americans, a Canadian and an advocacy organization, in response to sanctions imposed this week by the two countries for Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghur minority.
Blinken called the sanctions against the two members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom “baseless.”
At least one million Uyghurs and people belonging to other predominantly Muslim groups have been detained in camps in China’s Xinjiang region, rights groups say, accusing authorities of forcibly sterilizing women and impose forced labor.
The EU, Britain, Canada and the United States have sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic hierarchy in coordinated action on the allegations, prompting Beijing to retaliate in the form of sanctions against people from the EU and Great Britain.
“We stand in solidarity with Canada, UK, EU and other partners and allies around the world in calling on the PRC to end human rights violations and abuses against Muslim-majority Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang and release those arbitrarily detained, ”Blinken said.
Blinken’s statement came after Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke out against Beijing and pledged to stand up for human rights.
Trudeau called the Chinese sanctions “unacceptable actions.”
“We will continue to defend human rights around the world with our international partners,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
China has sanctioned Canadian opposition MP Michael Chong, vice-chair of a parliamentary subcommittee on international human rights, who this month presented a report concluding that the atrocities in Xinjiang constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.
Beijing has also said it will take action against the chairman and vice chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins.
People under Beijing sanctions are prohibited from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, and Macau, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with the three individuals or trading with the sub- committee.
“The Chinese government is firmly committed to safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and urges the parties concerned to clearly understand the situation and correct their mistakes,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
“They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form, and refrain from going any further down the wrong path. Otherwise, they will burn their fingers.
China’s previous sanctions against American individuals which it claims have severely undermined China’s sovereignty and interests on Xinjiang-related issues remain in place.
Chong, who is a member of the Conservative opposition party in Canada, said he would “wear (the sanctions) as a badge of honor.”
“It shows that parliamentarians are effective in drawing attention to the genocide of the Uyghur people taking place in western China,” Chong said in a telephone interview.
Chong urged the Trudeau government to “officially recognize the Uyghur genocide” and said the sanctions would have no practical effect because he had no intention of visiting China.