China on Monday announced that it will impose a set of retaliatory sanctions on a key American diplomat and several lawmakers who have been outspoken in their rebuke of several Chinese government policies.
The move comes on the heels of newly imposed U.S. sanctions on three senior Chinese Communist Party officials for alleged human rights abuses against ethnic and religious Muslims that Beijing has detained in the western part of China. The party has denied such abuses are occurring.
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying announced sanctions Monday against U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, as well as Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Chris Smith of New Jersey.
Ms. Hua said at a press briefing that the sanctions would also target the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, indicating that China’s move is a direct retaliation to sanctions recently leveled by Washington at Beijing.
“We urge the U.S. to immediately withdraw its wrong decision, and stop any words and actions that interfere in China’s internal affairs and harm China’s interests,” Ms. Hua said.
The U.S. sanctions — imposed last week on Chinese officials alleged to be involved in the mistreatment Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province — seek to freeze American assets, issue travel bans, and ban American companies and individuals from conducting business with the sanctioned Chinese officials.
While the U.S. lawmakers who’ve now been sanctioned by China were formally quiet on Monday, Mr. Rubio tweeted following the announcement, “I guess they don’t like me?”
Mr. Cruz also offered sarcasm, leveling the following anti-China slap via Twitter: “Bummer. I was going to take my family to Beijing for summer vacation, right after visiting Tehran.”
The nature and reach of the Chinese sanctions was unclear Monday, and Ms. Hua did not specify how the lawmakers would be specifically targeted, although she said the measures would take effect immediately.
The tit-for-tat actions follow recent allegations by former White House National Security Adviser John R. Bolton that Mr. Trump backed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s efforts to build detention camps to house hundreds of thousands of minorities.
Human rights experts and United Nations officials have said at least 1 million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims groups are being held in detention centers in Xinjiang. China has maintained the facilities are “training centers” designed to prevent extremism and teach new skills.