Washington — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new visa restrictions on Chinese officials Monday 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 with the new sanctions, Blinken also reiterated a call for China to “endand crimes against humanity” in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.
Xinjiang is in the grip of a years-long “anti-terrorism” campaign that has seen more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities detained in a sprawling network of “re-education” camps, according to rights groups.
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.
According to the U.S. State Department, 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 U.S. citizens, who speak out on behalf of these vulnerable populations,” Blinken said.
“We again call on the PRC government to cease its acts of transnational repression, including attempting to silence Uyghur American activists and other Uyghur individuals serving the American people by denying exit permission to their family members in China,” he added.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin on Tuesday slammed the U.S. move, saying Blinken’s statement was full of “political lies… and groundlessly suppresses Chinese officials.”
“China firmly opposes this,” Wang said, urging Washington to immediately revoke the sanctions.
“Otherwise, China will respond with reciprocal countermeasures,” he said without offering details.
The new actions come only a few days after President Joe Biden held a video call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, in which the U.S. president sought to pressure Xi to not provide support for.