China sanctions US, Canadian officials in retaliation against measures imposed over Uighur rights violations

US President Joe Biden with China's president Xi Jinping.
US President Joe Biden with China's president Xi Jinping. Photo credit: Getty Images

China has imposed sanctions against two American religious rights officials, and one Canadian lawmaker, in response to sanctions imposed by the United States and Canada over Xinjiang.

Beijing has been pushing back against sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada for what they say are rights violations against Uighur Muslims and other Turkic minorities in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.

China will take measures against the chair and vice-chair of the US government's advisory Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday (local time).

It also sanctioned Canadian member of parliament Michael Chong, vice-chair of parliament's Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development (FAAE), as well as the FAAE's Subcommittee on International Human Rights, which has eight members. This month, it presented a report concluding that atrocities had been committed in Xinjiang that constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.

"The Chinese government is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and urges the relevant parties to clearly understand the situation and redress their mistakes," the ministry said.

"They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China's internal affairs in any form and refrain from going farther down the wrong path. Otherwise they will get their fingers burnt."

The individuals are banned from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, the ministry said, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with the three individuals or having any exchanges with the subcommittee.

China's previous sanctions on US individuals who it says have seriously undermined China's sovereignty and interests on Xinjiang-related issues remain in effect, according to the statement.

Activists and UN rights experts say at least a million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations.

China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.