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US punishes senior Chinese officials over Uighur rights

Chinese Communist Party Secretary for Xinjiang Chen Quanguo, seen here during the National People's Congress in Beijing in March 2019, has been slapped with US sanctions over the treatment of the Uighur minority
Chinese Communist Party Secretary for Xinjiang Chen Quanguo, seen here during the National People's Congress in Beijing in March 2019, has been slapped with US sanctions over the treatment of the Uighur minority GREG BAKER AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

The United States on Thursday slapped sanctions on senior Chinese officials as it demanded an end to "horrific" abuses against Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims.

Three officials will be refused US visas and see any US-based assets frozen including Chen Quanguo, the Chinese Communist Party chief for the Xinjiang region and architect of Beijing's hardline policies on minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States was acting against "horrific and systematic abuses" in the western region including forced labor, mass detention and forced population control.

"The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang," Pompeo said in a statement.

The other two officials hit with the full sanction were Wang Mingshan, the director of the public security bureau in Xinjiang, and Zhu Hailun, a former senior Communist leader in the region.

The Treasury Department also imposed the financial sanctions on a fourth person, Huo Liujun, a former security official in Xinjiang, although Huo was not subjected to the visa restrictions.

Witnesses and human rights groups say that China has rounded up more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in a vast brainwashing campaign aimed at forcibly homogenizing minorities.

Pompeo in a conference call with reporters Thursday called the situation "the stain of the century" and has previously drawn parallels with the Holocaust.

China counters that it is providing education and vocational training in a bid to reduce the allure of Islamic radicalism, a threat it says it shares with the United States.

Pompeo in recent weeks has also announced visa restrictions on Chinese officials over the treatment of Tibet and Beijing's clampdown in Hong Kong.

In contrast with those moves, Pompeo publicly named the officials affected over Xinjiang.

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