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Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Wednesday. Photo: Martin Bertrand/Pool/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday night denounced retaliatory sanctions imposed by China on American and Canadian officials as "baseless."

Why it matters: In an escalating feud over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, China announced sanctions earlier Saturday on officials including USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin, wife of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and USCIRF vice chair Tony Perkins.

  • Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Chong and the Subcommittee on International Human Rights in Canada's House of Commons were also sanctioned — days after the U.S., U.K., European Union and Canada penalized Chinese officials deemed responsible for abuses in Xinjiang.
  • The State Department and several legislative bodies have recognized the abuses against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities as genocide.

What they're saying: Blinken said in an emailed statement that the U.S. "condemns" China's "baseless sanctions" on the officials, noting these were "apparently in retaliation for U.S. sanctions" on Chinese officials "connected with serious human rights abuse" in Xinjiang.

  • "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," he added.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted Saturday, "China’s sanctions are an attack on transparency and freedom of expression — values at the heart of our democracy.

  • "We stand with Parliamentarians against these unacceptable actions, and we will continue to defend human rights around the world with our international partners."

The big picture: China also retaliated against the EU on Monday, sanctioning 10 Europeans, according to Reuters.

Go deeper: UN report: "Clear evidence" China is committing genocide against Uyghurs

Editor's note: This article has been updated with Blinken's comments.

Go deeper

Mar 27, 2021 - World

Iran, China sign 25-year cooperation agreement

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif posing for a photo in Tehran, Iran, on March 27. Photo: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

China and Iran, both subject to U.S. sanctions, signed a 25-year cooperation agreement in Tehran on Saturday.

Why it matters: China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran's economy over that time period in exchange for a steady and heavily discounted supply of oil from the country, according to a draft of the agreement obtained by the New York Times.

Mar 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden taps Gayle Manchin as co-chair of Appalachian Regional Commission

Sen. Joe Manchin and Gayle Conelly Manchin at the senator's swearing-in ceremony in 2019. Photo: Alex Edelman/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday nominated Gayle Conelly Manchin, the wife of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and the former president of the West Virginia Board of Education, to serve as co-chair of Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

Why it matters: The ARC is an economic development partnership between the federal government and 13 state governments with the goal of investing in Appalachian communities. Sen. Joe Manchin is a critical moderate swing vote that Biden will need in order to pass any of his priorities in the 50-50 Senate.

California to remove word "alien" from state laws

Gov. Gavin Newsom during a September news conference in Oakland, California. Photo: Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

California is removing the word "alien" from its state laws and replacing it with words such as "noncitizen" and "immigrant," Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced.

Why it matters: The word "alien" began to be used in the 1990s "as a political dog whistle to express bigotry and hatred without using traditionally racist language," per a statement from Newsom's office.