U.S. sanctions architect of Uyghur internment (July 27)

Two women serving tea to men seated at table (© Mark Schiefelbein/AP Images)
Chen Quanguo (center), the Chinese Communist Party’s secretary in Xinjiang, shown in a 2019 meeting, oversees human rights abuses against Muslim ethnic minorities, U.S. officials say. (© Mark Schiefelbein/AP Images)

The U.S. has imposed sanctions against senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials responsible for “horrific and systematic abuses” against members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

The July 9 sanctions, issued by the U.S. departments of Treasury and State, target Chen Quanguo, the party’s secretary in Xinjiang, who oversees internment camps where more than 1 million Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minority groups have been imprisoned since 2017.

Also sanctioned is one of Chen’s former deputies, Zhu Hailun, who as party secretary of the Xinjiang Political and Legal Committee crafted policies for managing the camps, where inmates died from torture and abuse at the hands of security officials, according to reports.

“The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said in a July 9 statement.

Pompeo urged other nations to also condemn the party’s attacks on human rights.

The United States has long condemned the Chinese government’s crackdown on members of ethnic minority groups and recently warned businesses of the risk of economic harm as well as legal liability for working with companies in Xinjiang implicated in human rights abuses.

As a member of the party’s 25-person politburo committee, Chen is the highest-ranking CCP official the U.S. has sanctioned over human rights abuses. He arrived in Xinjiang in 2016, and in 2017 substantially increased construction of mass detention camps, known for political indoctrination, forced labor and torture, according to reports.

“Chen began implementing a comprehensive surveillance, detention and indoctrination program in Xinjiang, targeting Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities,” the Treasury Department said in a July 9 statement.

The CCP is also conducting a campaign of forced sterilization of women as part of its repression of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, according to a recent report.

The new U.S. sanctions also target:

  • The Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB), which uses artificial intelligence to track and detain Muslim minorities.
  • Wang Mingshan, the current director and Communist Party secretary of the XPSB.
  • Huo Liujun, the former party secretary of the XPSB.

The new restrictions freeze the subjects’ assets and prevent targets from accessing the U.S. financial system and conducting business with U.S. citizens or entering the country.

“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.