WASHINGTON (CN) — Responding to July 9 sanctions by the Trump administration, the Chinese government announced sanctions Monday against four U.S. officials, including Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
In addition to Rubio and Cruz, the Chinese sanctions are targeted to Congressman Chis Smith, a New Jersey Republican, and Sam Brownback, the U.S. ambassador at large for international religious freedom. China also leveled sanctions against the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
“The Chinese Communist Party is terrified and lashing out,” Cruz, a Texas Republican, said in a statement. “They forced over one million Uighurs into concentration camps and engaged in ethnic cleansing, including horrific forced abortions and sterilizations. These are egregious human rights atrocities that cannot be tolerated.”
Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, tied the moves Monday to what the officials said about China’s mass detention of the Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region of the country.
“It must be stressed that Xinjiang affairs are purely China’s internal affairs,” Chunying said Monday, according to a transcript. “The U.S. has no right and no cause to interfere in them.”
It is not clear what exactly the sanctions entail.
Smith said the sanctions would deny him a visa and that he had plans to travel to China, including the capital of Xinjiang, when the Covid-19 pandemic ended.
“We must continue to stand with the Chinese people against an increasingly authoritarian Chinese government that represses legitimate desires for liberty and justice,” Smith said in a statement.
Rubio, a Florida Republican, did not immediately provide comment on the sanctions. The State Department said the Chinese sanctions stand in contrast to the ones the U.S. snapped in place last week.
“The U.S. government imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on those responsible for serious human rights abuses in Xinjiang, including mass detentions, coercive population control and attempts to eradicate the Islamic faith and culture,” a State Department spokesperson said. “In contrast, Beijing imposed sanctions on U.S. officials and an organization that have worked tirelessly to expose the PRC’s human rights abuses.”
The sanctions mark yet another escalation of the tensions between Washington and Beijing, following sanctions the Treasury and State Departments put in place last week against Chinese officials in Xinjiang over the mass detention camps and other policies targeted towards Uighur Muslims and other minority groups.
A report published last month by the Jamestown Foundation detailed evidence that the Chinese Communist Party has undertaken a mass forced sterilization campaign against women in the region who are members of minority groups, including Uighurs.
Estimates suggest a million or more people, primarily those who are members of minority groups like the Uighurs, have been detained in the secretive camps, which former detainees have described as mass attempts to brainwash people accused of living out of step with the majority culture.
Rubio was the sponsor of a bill President Donald Trump signed into law last month that required the federal government to report on human rights abuses in Xinjiang and impose sanctions on responsible officials and entities. The Chinese government was highly critical of the bill at the time and has claimed the camps are an attempt to weed out religious extremism.