China sanctions US officials including senators Cruz, Rubio over Xinjiang issue

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China on Monday announced tit-for-tat sanctions against four US officials including senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio after Washington imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials over the treatment of the Uyghur community in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.

“China has decided to impose sanctions on four US officials and an institution who have acted viciously on issues related to Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as a reciprocal measure against relevant moves made earlier by the US,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Monday.

The spokesperson said the sanctions are against senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, US Representative Chris Smith, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

Tenuous at the best of times, ties between the US and China have been frayed with the two countries at loggerheads, most recently over the origins of the coronavirus. The other contentious issues between Washignton and Beijing include an ongoing trade war, Taiwan, the South China Sea – where Washington has dispatched two of its super aircraft carriers, the status of Hong Kong, the tit-for-tat visa restrictions over Tibet and the human rights situation in the remote northwestern province of Xinjiang.

Rubio and Cruz, both from President Donald Trump-led Republican Party, have sponsored legislation that would punish China’s actions in Xinjiang while Smith has been a vocal critic of China on issues ranging from Xinjiang to the coronavirus.

“The US actions seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the basic norms of international relations and seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations,” Hua said at the regular ministry briefing on Monday.

“China will make further responses based on how the situation develops,” she said without elaborating.

Last week, Washington said the sanctioned Chinese officials included Chen Quanguo, the Communist party secretary of Xinjiang, and Zhu Hailun, who helped oversee policy in the province.

The US sanctions also target Wang Mingshan, head of the Xinjiang public security bureau, and Huo Liujun, a former head of the bureau.

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