US China Uighur abuses, US Adds Sanctions Over Internment of Muslims.

The U.S. has sanctioned a powerful Chinese paramilitary organization in the country’s western province, accusing it of playing a key role in the detention and repression of Muslim ethnic minorities.

The sanctions could have far-reaching consequences, depending on their level of enforcement, given the deep economic and political control of the group, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, in the Xinjiang region.

This round of penalties is also the second in just three weeks after President Donald Trump said earlier this month that he had withheld them for over a year to protect trade talks with China. In recent weeks, his administration has bolted toward an increasingly tough stance against Beijing as the Phase 1 trade deal all but fell apart and the 2020 presidential election approaches.

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On July 9, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned regional officials and a security agency for the repressive campaign against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities that includes detaining over 1 million in “re-education” and forced labor camps, cracking down on practicing Islam and enforcing widespread sterilization practices. China at first denied such camps existed, then defended them as a counterterror operation; its foreign ministry has denied mass sterilization.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities rank as the stain of the century,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday.

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In addition to the XPCC, the Treasury Department is sanctioning the organization’s commander Peng Jiarui and a former senior official Sun Jinlong.

The latest actions mark a profound escalation in U.S. pressure. Described as a “paramilitary organization” or a “farming militia,” the XPCC is a tool of the Chinese Communist Party first deployed in the 1950s to send soldiers as pioneers or colonizers to Xinjiang, a largely undeveloped region nearly 2,000 miles west of Beijing.

After years of developing farmland, mining, and other industries, the XPCC now controls huge portions of the region’s economy, as well as critical security functions. Analysts have reported that the XPCC alone employs approximately 12% of the region’s population and accounts for 20% of the region’s total economy, with even larger shares of agriculture.

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Pompeo accused the XPCC of being “directly involved in implementing” what he called “a comprehensive surveillance, detention, and indoctrination program” against Uighurs and other minorities.

It’s unclear if the XPCC has any assets in U.S. jurisdiction. But this now puts any company, including American ones, at risk of U.S. sanctions if they work in the region or have a supply chain with ties to it, according to the U.S. Treasury, although teasing out those ties can be difficult given how murky business in China can be.

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