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Trump Admin Turns Up Heat on China Over Human Rights Violations

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The Trump administration took aim at China on Friday by imposing sanctions on a major paramilitary organization in the country’s western Xinjiang region and its commander over human rights abuses against ethnic and religious minorities.

The sanctions, which freeze any assets the targets may have in U.S. jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them, hit the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, its commander and former political commissar for abuses against Uighur Muslims, including mass arbitrary detentions, forced labor and torture.

The production and construction corps is a major operation consisting of 14 military-style divisions that reports to the Chinese Communist Party and is in charge of billions of dollars in development projects in Xinjiang, including mining and energy exploration.

“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which provides authority for the administration to penalize human rights abusers abroad.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the two officials targeted — the commander, Peng Jiarui, and the former commissar, Sun Jinlong — would also be subject to U.S. visa restrictions.

The Trump administration has previously sanctioned other officials in Xinjiang, subjecting them to travel bans.

Meanwhile, the White House lashed out at the postponement of the upcoming Hong Kong elections.

“We condemn the Hong Kong government’s decision to postpone for one year its legislative council elections and to disqualify opposition candidates,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

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“This action undermines the democratic processes and freedoms that have underpinned Hong Kong’s prosperity and this is only the most recent in a growing list of broken promises by Beijing.”

Earlier Friday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced the government was invoking an emergency ordinance to postpone the highly anticipated legislative elections by a year, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

The postponement is a setback for the pro-democracy opposition, which was hoping to capitalize on disenchantment with the current pro-Beijing majority to make gains.


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