US sanctions Chinese companies over Muslim abuse complaints


China said on Tuesday that it would take unspecified "necessary measures" after the US government imposed trade sanctions on 11 companies it says are implicated in human rights abuses in China's Muslim north-western region of Xinjiang.

The sanctions add to US pressure on Beijing over Xinjiang, where the ruling Communist Party is accused of mass detentions, forced labour, forced birth control and other abuses against Muslim minorities. Xinjiang is among a series of conflicts including human rights, trade and technology that have caused US–Chinese relations to plunge to their lowest level in decades.

The Trump administration also has imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials over the accusations. Beijing responded by announcing unspecified penalties on four US senators who are critics of its human rights record.

Three of the companies cited on Monday were identified by investigations by The Associated Press in 2018 and 2020 as being implicated in forced labour. One company, Nanchang O-Film Tech, supplies screens and lenses to Apple, Samsung and other technology companies. AP reporters found that employees from Xinjiang at its factory in the southern city of Nanchang weren't allowed out unaccompanied and were required to attend political classes.

US customs authorities seized a shipment from the second company, Hetian Haolin Hair Accessories, on suspicion it was made by forced labour. People who worked for the third, Hetian Taida, which produces sportswear sold to US universities and sports teams, told AP detainees were compelled to work there.

The Department of Commerce said the addition of the 11 companies to its Entity List will limit their access to US goods and technology. It gave no details of what goods might be affected.

"This action will ensure that our goods and technologies are not used in the Chinese Communist Party's despicable offensive against defenceless Muslim minority populations,'' said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement.

The Chinese foreign ministry rejected the sanctions as interference in its affairs and an attempt by Washington to hurt Chinese companies.

"What the United States is concerned about is not the human rights issues at all, but to suppress Chinese companies, undermine the stability of Xinjiang, and smear China's Xinjiang policies,'' said spokesperson Wang Wenbin. "We urge the United States to correct its mistakes, revoke relevant decisions and stop interfering in China's internal affairs."

Wang said Beijing will "take all necessary measures'' to protect Chinese businesses, but gave no indication of possible retaliation.

China has detained an estimated 1 million or more members of the Uighur and other Muslim ethnic minority groups in internment camps.

The government describes them as vocational training facilities aimed at countering Muslim radicalism and separatist tendencies. It says those facilities have since been closed, a claim that is impossible to confirm given the restrictions on visits and reporting about the region.

Veterans of the camps and family members say those held are forced, often with the threat of violence, to denounce their religion, culture and language and swear loyalty to Communist Party leader and head of state Xi Jinping. (AP)

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