(WASHINGTON) — BY: CONOR FINNEGAN
In a historic step, the Trump administration has sanctioned four Chinese officials and a regional security agency for the Chinese government’s repressive campaign against ethnic minorities.
The economic penalties and visa bans come on the same day that the White House confirmed it is finalizing a ban on federal contracts and contractors using five Chinese companies, some of which have ties to the campaign against Uighurs. That ban could have a strong economic impact, essentially forcing big U.S. companies to choose between working with the U.S. government and the Chinese firms.
While it’s unclear what kind of economic impact the sanctions will have, they are a strong symbol and a shot across the bow at China, which has detained over 1 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazaks and other mostly Muslim ethnic minorities.
But they also come only after growing pressure on President Donald Trump to act against a now years-long campaign to imprison these minorities, strip them of their culture and religion, and reduce their populations through sterilization and other forms of birth control.
The sanctions target the top Chinese Communist Party official in charge in western Xinjiang province Chen Quanguo, his former deputy Zhu Hailun and the public security bureau there, its director Wang Mingshan and his predecessor Huo Liujun.
In addition to sanctioning all five, the State Department is also barring Chen, Zhu, Wang and their families from receiving U.S. visas.
The sanctions are the first that target individual officials and agencies associated with the repressive campaign, which the Chinese government initially denied and now says is a legitimate counter-terrorism operation against radical Islamists in the region.
Last week, a new research paper alleged that the campaign includes sterilizing the Uighur population through forced abortions, intrauterine contraceptives and imprisonment. Four U.S. government agencies also issued an advisory to U.S. businesses, warning they would face “legal risks” if their supply chains include the forced labor used in these internment camps.
The White House is now also finalizing another blow to business with China.
Russ Vought, the acting director of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, confirmed to ABC News that OMB will ban Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua, and Hytera — five Chinese companies with ties to the government — from federal contracts.
“The danger our nation faces from foreign adversaries like China looking to infiltrate our systems is great. The Trump administration is keeping our government strong against nefarious networks like Huawei by fully implementing the ban on federal procurement,” he said in a statement.
That means no U.S. federal agency or any government contractor will be allowed to do business with them without a waiver, including major U.S. corporations like Amazon, which reportedly received 1,500 cameras from Dahua in April alone, according to Reuters.
Dahua and Hikvision are among the leading sellers of surveillance equipment and cameras worldwide, Hytera of two-way radios, and Huawei and ZTE of telecommunications equipment and cell phones.
The U.S. has previously alleged that these firms have also provided equipment and support to the surveillance state built by the Chinese government in Xinjiang against the Uighurs and other minorities.
This heightened pressure from Trump’s administration comes after the president’s former National Security Advisor John Bolton alleged that Trump encouraged China’s leader Xi Jinping to build the mass internment camps.
Trump has denied that’s true, but he told Axios last month that he did prioritize his trade negotiations with Beijing and put on hold any sanctions over what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the “stain of the century” Thursday.
In a statement announcing the visa bans, Pompeo said the U.S. “will not stand idly by as the (Chinese Communist Party)” commits these atrocities.
Beyond the three officials and their families, Pompeo said the State Department would implement visa bans other Chinese officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the unjust detention or abuse” of Uighurs, ethnic Kazaks and other minorities. U.S. law allows him to name the first three as a form of public shaming, while requiring the others’ names to remain confidential.
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