U.S. Adds Sanctions Over Internment of Muslims in China


“Today’s designations are the latest U.S. government action in an ongoing effort to deter human rights abuse in the Xinjiang region,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the most vocal of the China hawks, said in a statement on Friday.

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Updated July 27, 2020

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The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp was founded in 1954 as a group entwined with the People’s Liberation Army that would oversee the deployment of large numbers of ethnic Han citizens, many of them military veterans, to Xinjiang to build farms, factories and towns that would allow China to consolidate control of the important border region and the many ethnic minority groups there. As of 2009, the group, which reports directly to Beijing, had an annual output of goods and services of $7 billion, and the settlements and entities overseen by the bingtuan, or soldiers corps, included five cities, 180 farming communities and 1,000 companies. They also run their own courts, universities and media organizations.

On July 9, the United States imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials associated with Xinjiang policy, including Chen Quanguo, the party chief of the region and a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s 25-member ruling Politburo. That move was largely symbolic, but it sent a stronger message than an October 2019 action in which the administration placed 28 Chinese companies and police departments deemed to be associated with Xinjiang abuses on a blacklist that forbids American companies from selling technology and other goods to them without a license. At that time, the State Department also announced visa restrictions on some Chinese officials.

On July 20, the Trump administration added 11 new Chinese entities, including companies supplying major American brands like Apple, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, to the list that restricts them from purchasing American products, saying the firms were complicit in human rights violations in Xinjiang. That brought to 48 the total number of Chinese companies and security units on the U.S. entity list for violations related to Xinjiang.

On July 1, the administration warned businesses with supply chains that run through Xinjiang to consider the reputational, economic and legal risks of doing so.

The Associated Press reported on July 3 that agents of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in New York had seized 13 tons of hair weaves and other beauty products suspected of having been made by detainees in a Xinjiang internment camp. The products were worth an estimated $800,000. In May, the agency conducted a seizure of similar products that were being imported by companies in Georgia and Texas, to be sold to salons and individuals across the United States.