US sets new sanctions on China for harassing religious, ethnic minorities

The new actions come only a few days after Mr Joe Biden spoke via video call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new visa restrictions on Chinese officials Monday (March 21) for their actions to repress ethnic and religious minorities both inside and outside the country.

In a statement, which provided no specific details on which officials would be targeted, Mr Blinken also reiterated a call for China to "end its ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity" in the north-western region of Xinjiang.

Activists say some one million Uighurs have been held in mass detention in the remote western region.

China rejects accusations of abuse, describing the camps as vocational centres designed to combat extremism and in late 2019, it said all people in the camps had "graduated".

Mr Blinken noted that the visa restrictions would be focused on Chinese officials complicit in policies aimed at repressing religious and ethnic minorities, as well as other dissidents, human rights activists and journalists.

He noted that the actions by Chinese officials extended outside China's borders, including into the United States.

"The United States rejects efforts by PRC (People's Republic of China) officials to harass, intimidate, surveil, and abduct members of ethnic and religious minority groups, including those who seek safety abroad, and US citizens, who speak out on behalf of these vulnerable populations," Mr Blinken said.

"We again call on the PRC government to cease its acts of transnational repression, including attempting to silence Uighur American activists and other Uighur individuals serving the American people by denying exit permission to their family members in China," he added.

The new actions come only a few days after Mr Joe Biden spoke via video call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in which the US president sought to pressure Mr Xi to not provide support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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