US President Joe Biden (file photo) Photograph:( AFP )
Activists and U.N. experts say that more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being held against their will in harsh camps in the remote western region
The US Treasury placed sanctions Monday on two senior Chinese officials for what it called "serious human rights abuses" against Uighurs and other minorities in the country's Xinjiang region.
"Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang," Andrea Gacki, the Treasury official overseeing the sanctions program.
The sanctions targeted Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Chinese Communist Party committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
The Treasury action was part of a coordinated effort by the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States to raise the pressure on Beijing for putting more than one million Xinjiang citizens, mostly Muslim Uighurs, in prison camps, and using many in forced labor programs.
The Treasury said in a statement the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps is a paramilitary group that advances Beijing's tough controls on Xinjiang, in parallel with the Public Security Bureau.
"The Chinese government treats almost all expressions of faith as a sign of religious 'extremism' or ethnic separatism," the Treasury said.
Activists and U.N. experts say that more than 1 million Muslim Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims are being held against their will in harsh camps in the remote western region.
China rejects US charges that it has committed genocide against ethnic and religious minorities, and says the camps provide vocational training to help stamp out Islamist extremism and separatism.
The first high-level US-China meeting of the Biden administration got off to a fiery start on Thursday, with both sides levelling sharp rebukes of the others' policies in a rare public display that underscored the level of bilateral tension.
The largest group representing exiled ethnic Uighurs has written to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging him to demand that Beijing close its internment camps in the Xinjiang region.
"China is using coercion and aggression to systematically erode autonomy in Hong Kong, undercut democracy in Taiwan, abuse human rights in Xinjiang and Tibet, and assert maritime claims in the South China Sea that violate international law," Blinken said.
The Biden administration has made clear that it is looking for a change in behaviour from China, which has expressed hope to reset relations between the world's two largest economies that worsened drastically under former President Donald Trump.