WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Saturday (March 27) that China's tit-for-tat sanctions against two Americans in the growing dispute over Beijing's treatment of Uighurs were "baseless" and would only shine a harsh spotlight on the "genocide" in Xinjiang.
"Beijing's attempts to intimidate and silence those speaking out for human rights and fundamental freedoms only contribute to the growing international scrutiny of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang," Mr Blinken said in a statement.
He spoke out after China announced sanctions against two Americans, a Canadian and a rights advocacy body, in response to sanctions imposed this week by the two countries over Beijing's treatment of the Uighur minority.
Mr Blinken called the sanctions on the two members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom "baseless".
At least one million Uighurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in China's Xinjiang region, according to rights groups, who accuse the authorities of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.
The European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States have sanctioned several members of Xinjiang's political and economic hierarchy in coordinated action over the allegations, prompting retaliation from Beijing in the form of sanctions on individuals from the EU and Britain.
"We stand in solidarity with Canada, the UK, the EU, and other partners and allies around the world in calling on the PRC to end the human rights violations and abuses against predominantly Muslim Uighurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang and to release those arbitrarily detained," Mr Blinken said.