China hits back at US with sanctions over row on Uyghurs in Xinjiang


China said on Monday it will levy “corresponding sanctions” against the US, after Washington penalised senior Chinese officials over the treatment of minority Uyghur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.

The sanctions targeted US senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, US representative Chris Smith, ambassador at large for international religious freedom Sam Brownback and the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Rubio and Cruz have both supported legislation that would punish China’s actions in Xinjiang while Smith has been an outspoken critic of China on a host of issues.

China’s move comes as relations between the world’s two biggest economic powerhouses have deteriorated in the last few months over disagreements on issues including the coronavirus pandemic, trade, Huawei and a sweeping national security law imposed on Hong Kong.

“The U.S. actions seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the basic norms of international relations and seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.

“China will make further responses based on how the situation develops.”

Hua did not elaborate further.

U.N. experts and activists say at least a million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in Xinjiang. China describes them as training centres helping to stamp out terrorism and extremism and give people new skills.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China monitors human rights and the development of the rule of law and submits an annual report to Trump and Congress.

Washington’s measures against Chinese officials, including the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, involve freezing U.S. assets, U.S. travel bans and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)