Uighurs issue: China to oppose US curbs

Backs officials, says don’t interfere in internal Xinjiang matter

Beijing : China said on Wednesday that it would resolutely oppose any US move to impose sanctions against its officials and companies to punish Beijing for the alleged human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in the volatile Xinjiang province. “China consistently resolutely opposes the United States using Xinjiang-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the media in Beijing.

His comments came after US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said “there are credible reports that many, many thousands have been detained in detention centres since April 2017, and the numbers are fairly significant from what we can tell so far”. “We’re deeply troubled by the worsening crackdown, not just on Uygurs, Kazakhs, other Muslims in that region of China,” Nauert told a news briefing in Washington on Tuesday.

She declined to confirm whether sanctions were being contemplated against Chinese officials. “We have a lot of tools at our disposal,” she said.

Towards the end of the last month, a group of US lawmakers asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose sanctions on seven Chinese officials, including Chen Quanguo, the Communist party chief in Xinjiang, saying he had overseen the crackdown.

Chen is a Politburo member of the ruling Communist Party of China.

Geng said the Chinese government protects people’s religious freedom and all ethnic groups are entitled for religious freedom. “If the relevant report is true we urge the relevant party to respect the facts, abandon prejudices and stop taking actions that may harms the China-US mutual trust and cooperation,” Geng said.

China is currently carrying out a massive crackdown against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in the volatile Xinjiang province where Uygurs Muslims – who formed majority there – were restive over the increasing settlements of Han community in the region. The reported US move against China over Xinjiang, if materialised, will be the first by the Trump administration against the Communist country over the alleged human rights violations.

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