By William Mauldin 

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. imposed sanctions on senior officials in China's Xinjiang region, accusing them and the region's police of being complicit in human-rights violations against the Muslim population in northwest China.

The Treasury and State Departments designated Chen Quanguo, the Chinese Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang, under the sanctions, effectively locking up any international assets and preventing him or his immediate family members from traveling to the U.S.

The two agencies also sanctioned Zhu Hailun, the party secretary of the Xinjiang Political and Legal Committee, and Wang Mingshan, the party secretary of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. Huo Liujun, the former secretary of the police bureau, also was sanctioned by the Treasury Department alone, while the State Department said it would impose visa restrictions on additional unnamed officials linked to unjust detention or mistreatment of Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs or other minorities in Xinjiang.

"The United States will not stand idly by as the [Chinese Communist Party] carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

The sanctions detailed Thursday are likely largely symbolic because the officials are unlikely to travel to the U.S. and probably don't hold significant assets in financial institutions outside China.

President Trump signed new legislation this year that would allow for sanctions related to the treatment of the Uighurs, but the penalties announced Thursday were based on older authority. Congress also passed legislation a week ago that would require sanctions on officials linked to Beijing's effort to curb Hong Kong's autonomy through a new national security law. Mr. Trump hasn't signed it.

The sanctions, levied under a previous executive order and U.S. human-rights law, are the latest effort by the administration to pressure Beijing, which Washington accuses of human-rights abuses, undermining the autonomy of Hong Kong and unfair trade practices. Security tensions also have been rising between the two countries, most recently in the South China Sea.

Four U.S. government agencies warned businesses last week about the legal and reputational risks of using Chinese supply chains that could be connected with Xinjiang or of selling to customers there.

A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Chinese officials have generally defended their Xinjiang policies as benign efforts to eradicate extremist and separatist violence and to ensure ethnic harmony.

Mr. Chen, the top official directing China's clampdown in the restive Xinjiang region, has emerged as a pioneer of aggressive, technology-driven police techniques.

The Treasury Department officially designated Xinjiang's police department under the sanctions, saying that it is among the first to use artificial intelligence for racial profiling.

Write to William Mauldin at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 09, 2020 13:09 ET (17:09 GMT)

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