Washington Examiner: State Department dismisses Chinese 'threats'

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Washington Examiner
By Jerry Dunleavy

The State Department dismissed Chinese government sanctions leveled against U.S. officials, saying that “these threats will not deter us” from holding China accountable for its oppression of the Uighurs.

“The United States is committed to holding accountable those involved in human rights abuses around the world, including those responsible for the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, China,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Examiner following the Monday sanctions. “Beijing’s July 13 announcement to impose retaliatory sanctions on U.S. government officials and organizations who have worked tirelessly to expose the PRC’s human rights abuses further demonstrates the CCP’s refusal to take responsibility for its actions."

"These threats will not deter us from taking concrete action to hold CCP officials accountable for their ongoing campaign of human rights abuses against members of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang, including mass detentions, coercive forced abortions and forced sterilizations, and restrictions on religious and cultural identities," the official added. “There is no moral equivalency between these PRC sanctions and actions taken by countries holding accountable CCP officials for their human rights abuses.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said earlier in the day that it would be imposing “corresponding sanctions” against Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, GOP Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

"We urge the U.S. to immediately withdraw its wrong decision, and stop any words and actions that interfere in China's internal affairs and harm China's interests,” Hua told the Chinese press. “The U.S. actions seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Last week, the Trump administration announced sanctions, including the denial of travel visas, aimed at Chinese Communist Party officials who the U.S. believes have been involved in carrying out human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China. The U.S. said the Chinese government officials were being designated “for their connection to serious human rights abuse against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, which reportedly include mass arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse, among other serious abuses.”

The U.S. officials targeted by China on Monday roundly derided China’s decision.

Cruz sarcastically tweeted: “Bummer. I was going to take my family to Beijing for summer vacation, right after visiting Tehran.” Cruz has long been a China hawk and recently introduced legislation targeting China’s cover-ups of the coronavirus pandemic, Hollywood censorship at the behest of China, and the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda efforts inside the U.S.

The senator later put out a statement saying that “the Chinese Communist Party is terrified and lashing out” after being criticized for its treatment of the Uighurs.

“They forced over one million Uighurs into concentration camps and engaged in ethnic cleansing, including horrific forced abortions and sterilizations,” Cruz said. “These are egregious human rights atrocities that cannot be tolerated. Unfortunately for CCP leaders, I don’t have plans to travel to the authoritarian regime that covered up the coronavirus pandemic and endangered millions of lives worldwide.”

Back in March, Cruz and Rubio also introduced the bipartisan Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which was aimed at holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for using forced Uighur labor.

Rubio responded to China’s targeting by tweeting: “The Communist Party of #China has banned me from entering the country. I guess they don’t like me?” Rubio, who is also the co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, introduced the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2019, which passed the Senate unanimously and was signed into law by President Trump in June.

“The U.S. sanctions Chinese officials for abusing human rights; Beijing sanctions us for defending human rights,” the CECC said Monday. “Instead of blaming others, the People’s Republic of China must stop the mass internet, forced labor, and human rights against Uyghur and other ethnic minorities ... The CECC will not be silenced.”

Brownback had tweeted that “this administration continues to lead on efforts to protect #religiousfreedom & address the PRC govt’s abuses" following the imposition of sanctions against China.

The State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2019, released through Brownback’s Office of International Freedom, spent 115 pages hammering China for its persecution of religious minorities, zeroing in especially on its repression of the Uighurs.

Walter Lohman, the Director of the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, told the Washington Examiner on Monday that China’s retaliatory actions were likely targeted messaging for its own people and aimed at intimidating other countries, rather than truly aimed at scaring the U.S. itself.

“The U.S. is not the primary target — the U.S. is just the context for it,” Lohman said. “I think the point here is aimed at other countries and aimed at a domestic audience. The point is that China is not going to stand for this and shows they can do this too … The message is China is strong like the United States, and it’s not going to take this sitting down.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, tweeted that “the #ChineseCommunistParty’s sanctions on the U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom & U.S. lawmakers is just the latest example of Chairman Xi's totalitarian leadership that has turned China into a pariah state.”

Since 2017, as many as 2 million Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities have been moved into detention camps, often referred to as concentration camps, in the western Xinjiang province of China. There, Uighurs are allegedly put through rigorous "deradicalization" programs and are mocked and tortured by Chinese guards. But the camps are just one part of alleged large-scale surveillance and oppression inflicted on China’s Uighur population.

The Chinese Communist Party has reportedly imposed forced birth control, sterilizations, and abortions on the Uighur population in a race-based effort to reduce the minority Muslim population in the country. A late June analysis by the Associated Press found thatBeijing is imposing “draconian measures to slash birth rates” among Uighur Muslims and other minorities “as part of a sweeping campaign to curb its Muslim population” while the Chinese government “encourages some of the country’s Han majority to have more children.”

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