The U.S. has placed visa restrictions on Chinese officials suspected of involvement in a crackdown against Turkic Muslim groups in China’s western region of Xinjiang.
Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, issued a statement declaring the restrictions on Oct. 8.
“Visa restrictions [will be applied to] Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, China,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.”
In his statement, Pompeo described the situation faced by Muslim minority groups in the region.
“The Chinese government has instituted a highly repressive campaign against Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) that includes mass detentions in internment camps; pervasive, high-tech surveillance; draconian controls on expressions of cultural and religious identities; and coercion of individuals to return from abroad to an often-perilous fate in China,” he said.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, one of the most vocal critics of Beijing’s human rights record in Washington, welcomed the visa ban.
“This is an important and long overdue step by the U.S. government,” Rubio said in a statement. “The U.S should also press other nations to take similar steps, Chinese officials should not escape international accountability.”
The visa restrictions follow another U.S. announcement regarding the imposition of export restrictions on U.S. products exported to 28 entities, including elements of the Public Security Bureau and commercial companies in Xinjiang, involved in China’s campaign of surveillance, detention, and repression.
“The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” Pompeo said.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang China rejected the U.S. moves.
“There is no such thing as these so-called ‘human rights issues’ as claimed by the United States,” Geng said reported the BBC.
“These accusations are nothing more than an excuse for the United States to deliberately interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
China has faced international criticism for sending some one million Muslims mainly from the Uyghur ethnic minority to internment camps in the remote region since 2017. China has defended its actions, calling them vocational re-education centres aimed at ending Islamic extremism.