Since the US, UK, EU, and Canada coordinated on sanctions against Chinese officials, Beijing has been responding through measures of its own. On Saturday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounced what he said were “baseless” sanctions against two US officials.
The Chinese sanctions targeted two officials from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a federal organization that celebrated the coordinated sanctions on China.
The Western sanctions against China were over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. One of the final moves of the Trump administration was to designate China’s alleged human rights abuses against the Uyghur population of Xinjiang as a “genocide,” something the Biden administration agrees with.
“Beijing’s attempts to intimidate and silence those speaking out for human rights and fundamental freedoms only contribute to the growing international scrutiny of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Blinken said in a statement.
The USCIRF had been pushing the narrative that what’s happening in Xinjiang is a genocide before the designation was made. In June 2020, the USCIRF released a statement that said allegations of forced sterilization of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang are “evidence of genocide.”
The allegations of forced sterilization came from a report by The Associated Press that cited a paper by Adrian Zenz, a German researcher that China hit with sanctions in response to EU measures. The US State Department relied on Zenz’s paper on alleged birth control measures for its genocide designation. A report from The Grayzone that took a close look at Zenz’s work found the paper relied on data manipulation and fraudulent claims to reach its conclusion.
It’s tough to know what’s happening in Xinjiang, and the incendiary claims from the US do not help. China has invited the UN to Xinjiang, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday that he is currently in “serious negotiations” to gain unrestricted access to the province.