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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.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."