Trump Administration Mulls Sanctions on China over Persecution of Muslims

One of China's most popular online communities for Muslims has been shuttered after posting a petition asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to stop his "brutal suppression" of activists
AFP Nicolas Asfouri

The Trump administration and some lawmakers are reportedly considering using a law targeting human rights abusers to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the oppression of Muslims in western Xinjiang province.

Authorities in Xinjiang are using what some analysts have described as “mind transformation centers” to house “tens of thousands” of prisoners, mainly from China’s oppressed Uighur (or Uyghur) ethnic minority, U.S. government and independent analysts revealed.

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Laura Stone told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the U.S. could take action against China under the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, reports the Associated Press (AP).

The Global Magnitsky Act grants the United States government the authority to impose U.S. entry and property sanctions against any foreign person who engages in human rights violations or corruption.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ) have reportedly expressed interest in using the Magnitsky Act to castigate China for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, home to the country’s predominantly Uighur Muslim minority and a small number of Christians, many of them Uighur converts.

AP notes:

A senior U.S. official says the United States would pursue sanctions on Chinese officials involved in a sweeping security crackdown in the western region of Xinjiang if they were deemed appropriate for designation under a law targeting human rights offenders.

Beijing has defended its crackdown as a “People’s War on Terror” and a necessary move to purge separatist and religious extremist elements from Xinjiang, a vast region with more than 10 million Muslims. But an extrajudicial detention program has swept up many people, including relatives of American citizens, on ostensible offenses ranging from accessing foreign websites to contacting overseas relatives.

On Wednesday, Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, warned the U.S. government against “interference in any form and groundless accusation on China’s internal affairs,” reports AP.

Members of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang “live and work in peace and enjoy development and tranquility,” added the spokesperson.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has launched a campaign to crack down on all religions — primarily Muslims and Christians — as part of the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to force atheist values on everyone in the country and allegedly combat terrorist and separatist groups.

During an April event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, Bob Fu, the founder and president of the U.S.-based Christian human rights group China Aid, stressed that communist authorities are indeed sending Muslim detainees from Xinjiang to “mind transformation centers” where they are “forced to even eat pork.”

Citing human rights groups and Stone from the State Department, AP reports that Xinjiang authorities are holding “tens of thousands” of Uighurs and other Muslims at the communist party-run “network of detention centers operating seemingly without legal basis” where prisoners “receive so-called political education for indefinite periods.”

Open Doors and other groups that track persecution against followers of Christ also report that communist authorities are sending many Christians to the “mind transformation centers.”

“Other aspects of the [anti-religion] campaign include all-encompassing digital surveillance, mass deployment of police and severe regulations against religious customs and dress,” notes AP, echoing Fu who is also a human rights lawyer.

Fu noted that Chinese officials are “mandated to force themselves and stay in every household of Uighur families from two to five days every month” to monitor their activity and ensure they are loyal to the government.

During the Heritage Foundation-hosted event, Kristina Arriaga, the vice chairwoman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), confirmed Fu’s assertion that Chinese Communist oppression is cracking down on all faith adherents in Xinjiang.

President Xi’s anti-religion campaign is also prevalent in the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, known as the Jerusalem of China.

Communist authorities in Wenzhou have “forcibly burned” and “demolished”  an estimated “2,000 crosses,” Fu said, adding the country’s judicial system sentenced some pastors affiliated with the affected churches to 10 to 13 years behind bars.

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