The United States, Canada and the United Kingdom joined the European Union on Monday to take what they described as “coordinated action” against China to send “a clear message about the human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang”, prompting anger in Beijing and immediate retaliation.
The sanctions blacklisted former and current officials in the Xinjiang region – Zhu Hailun, Wang Junzheng, Wang Mingshan and Chen Mingguo – for alleged abuses, which have sparked international outrage.
The coordinated move also targeted the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
Washington, which had sanctioned two of those officials in July 2020, added the other two to the list on Monday.
“Acting together sends the clearest possible signal that the international community is united in its condemnation of China’s human rights violations in Xinjiang and the need for Beijing to end its discriminatory and oppressive practices in the region,” the UK’s foreign ministry said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China “continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang” and called on Beijing to “bring an end to the repression of Uighurs”.
The United Nations has said more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking residents of the northwestern region have been held in a network of camps that China has called vocational skills training centres in recent years.
Rights groups said they have also been subjected to other abuses including restrictions on freedom of religion including being forced to eat pork.
On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of Australia and New Zealand said they welcomed the sanctions.
“There is clear evidence of severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in a joint statement.