- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 28, 2021

A tit-for-tat sanctions battle between the Biden administration and China has reached new heights in recent days, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken accusing Beijing of attempting to “intimidate and silence” U.S. officials who speak out for human rights around the world.

Mr. Blinken made the assertion in a statement Saturday night in response to China’s leveling of sanctions against U.S. and Canadian officials in a growing political and international economic feud surrounding Beijing’s policies in the ethnic Uighur and traditionally Muslim Chinese region of Xinjiang.

Earlier Saturday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the head of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin; commission Vice Chair Tony Perkins; and Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Chong will be barred from visiting China, Hong Kong and Macao, and from having any dealings with Chinese financial entities.

The Chinese sanctions came days after the United States, Canada, Britain and the European Union had leveled sanctions against Chinese officials, accusing them of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

U.S. officials previously have accused the Chinese government of carrying out genocide against minority Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, where more than 1 million members of the Uighur and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities have been confined to detention camps. Foreign governments and researchers also have accused authorities in the region of imposing forced labor and coercive birth control measures on Uighurs.

The recent U.S., Canadian and European sanctions blocked a number of Chinese officials from travel and access to the U.S. and European markets.

China’s communist government has fumed over the sanctions, rejected accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang and called for boycotts and other punishments against foreign firms, including retailer H&M and Nike, along with sanctions against foreign government officials and activists it says are spreading false information about Xinjiang.

“They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form and refrain from going further down the wrong path. Otherwise, they will get their fingers burnt,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry statement said.

China announced sanctions Friday against British officials and H&M products were dropped from Chinese websites over the company’s opposition to buying cotton from Xinjiang. The ruling Communist Party’s Youth League also launched attacks Wednesday on H&M, according to The Associated Press.

With China then leveling its own sanctions against U.S. and Canadian officials, Mr. Blinken responded Saturday night that the U.S. “condemns” the “baseless” Chinese sanctions, which he described as “apparently in retaliation for U.S. sanctions on [Chinese government] officials connected with serious human rights abuse in Xinjiang.”

Mr. Blinken noted that Beijing had already leveled sanctions in January and last July against dozens of “U.S. officials and organizations promoting democracy and human rights around the world.”

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,” the secretary of state said. “We stand in solidarity with Canada, the UK, the EU, and other partners and allies around the world in calling on the [Chinese government] 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.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Guy Taylor can be reached at gtaylor@washingtontimes.com.

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