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Photo: Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images

The Treasury Department announced Thursday that the U.S. has sanctioned four Chinese Communist Party officials and the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau for human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: The sanctions designations, pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Act passed by Congress in 2016, mark a significant escalation in the Trump administration's response to the Chinese government's detainment of over 1 million Uighurs in internment camps.

  • Rights groups and U.S. officials have long called for Global Magnitsky Act sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for the repression in Xinjiang, but the administration repeatedly chose to prioritize trade negotiations over punishing China for policies now widely recognized to be a form of genocide.
  • “This is the highest level sanction that’s ever been designated in China," said a senior administration official in a press call. "We’re upholding the intent of American law, as well as executive orders that President Trump has signed. And we’re standing up for values that go back to the founding of our own republic."

The officials sanctioned by Treasury include:

  • Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's CCP secretary Chen Quanguo
  • Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region's former deputy CCP secretary Zhu Hailun
  • Xinjiang Public Security Bureau director and CCP secretary Wang Mingshan
  • Xinjiang Public Security Bureau former CCP secretary Huo Liujun

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also announced he would impose visa restrictions on Chen Quanguo, Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan that would ban them and their immediate family members from entering the U.S.

Context: Chen Quanguo is a member of the Politburo, the CCP body that decides policy for the entire country.

  • Zhu Hailun was the party secretary of the Xinjiang Political and Legal Affairs Committee, the Chinese Communist Party body tasked with building and running the concentration camps. Classified documents detailing his role in the camps were leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative journalists last year.
  • The Xinjiang Public Security Bureau has contracted with numerous major Chinese companies to build the camps and the mass surveillance regime now blanketing Xinjiang. Some of those companies include HikVision and SenseTime, which have already been included on a U.S. export blacklist.
  • BGI, one of the largest genomics companies in the world, has also worked closely with Xinjiang public security officials on genetic forensics.

What they're saying:

  • Treasury Secretary Mnuchin: '"The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world."
  • Pompeo: "The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeted Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith."

Go deeper: China is engaged in campaign of forced birth control against Uighurs

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to remove Megvii from the list of companies known to have contracted with the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.

Go deeper

Oct 20, 2020 - World

China embraces hostage diplomacy

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Chinese government is threatening to detain foreign citizens unless their home governments do what Beijing demands. In some cases, China has already made good on those threats.

The big picture: This marks a potential evolution of China's "wolf warrior diplomacy" to outright rogue state behavior, putting it in the company of countries like North Korea and Iran, which have also engaged in hostage diplomacy.

25 mins ago - World

Tunisian president ousts prime minister, suspends parliament amid unrest

Tunisians stage a protest in response to the problems in the health sector in the country, demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the parliament in Tunis on July 25. Photo: Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced Sunday that he had dismissed the country's prime minister and frozen the parliament amidst mass protests in the country, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The move, which comes on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia's independence, escalates Saied's longstanding feud with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and poses a challenge to the 2014 constitution that "split powers between president, prime minister and parliament," per Reuters.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi appoints GOP Rep. Kinzinger to Jan. 6 committee

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Sunday that she has appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to serve on the House select committee investigating the Jan 6. Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Pelosi's announcement comes after she rejected two of the five Republican appointments offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).