The Trump administration put visa restrictions on Chinese officials Tuesday amid continuing abuses of Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained the steps target officials “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention and abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups” from the land in northwest China. It follows the government’s move on Monday to blacklist 28 public safety entities and companies alleged to be involved in surveillance and detention of minority groups, effectively restricting U.S. companies from doing business with them.
“The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” the top U.S. diplomat said in a statement.
In another tweeted announcement, Pompeo stated “China has forcibly detained over one million Muslims in a brutal, systematic campaign to erase religion and culture in Xinjiang.”
The move increases tensions between the U.S. and China only two weeks prior to high-stakes trade talks restart on Thursday in Washington. Unease has increased this week as the world’s two biggest economies hope to strike a deal to end a damaging trade war.
Important U.S. stock indicators surfaced following initial reports of the visa restrictions.
Before Tuesday, China pushed the U.S. to eliminate sanctions and prevent what it called meddling in China’s internal affairs.
“We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang” and to “stop interfering” in “China’s internal affairs, and remove relevant Chinese entities from the list of entities as soon as possible,” that a spokesperson in the ministry said Tuesday in a statement, according to a Google translation.
Human rights groups charge that China has participated in the arbitrary detention, torture and surveillance of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities. Authorities have arrested at least 1 million people in camps in the Xinjiang region, based on estimates reported by multiple sockets.
The U.S. in recent times has increased its pressure on China to end the abuses. The moves in the State and Commerce departments are just the most recent flashpoints at a tense relationship between Washington and Beijing.
Also this week, associations and companies in China proceeded to cut off connections with the National Basketball Association after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in service of their pro-democracy motion in semi-autonomous Hong Kong. China’s communist regime has opposed the motion for self-determination in Hong Kong.