This is the first Time since the Biden administration took office that the U.S. and its allies have acted jointly on China, and the first time since the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident that the European Union and the United Kingdom have launched sanctions against China over human rights issues.
The EU was the first to issue a statement in the round of sanctions, announcing early Monday that it was sanctioning four Chinese officials and one entity in the Xinjiang region – Wang Junzheng, deputy secretary of the Xinjiang Party Committee and party secretary of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps; Chen Mingguo, head of the Xinjiang Public Security Department; Wang Mingshan, member of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Party Committee and secretary of the Political and Legal Committee; former Xinjiang Deputy Party Secretary and Zhu Hailun, secretary of the Political and Legal Committee, and the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, with sanctions including a travel ban and freezing of overseas assets and transactions.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry immediately responded by calling the EU sanctions “based on lies and false information,” and announced similar sanctions against 10 individuals and four entities within the EU.
Subsequently, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada joined the EU in announcing their own sanctions orders.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced two new targets – Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo – who were sanctioned for their “association with serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang” by freezing their overseas assets and transactions and being barred from entering the country. The sanctions were imposed by the Trump administration last July. The Trump Administration already imposed equivalent sanctions on Chinese officials, including Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan, and the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps last July.
“As long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist authorities will continue to face consequences,” OFAC head Andrea M. Gacki said in a statement.
Secretary of State John Blinken issued a statement after the Treasury Department announced the sanctions condemning China’s “genocide and Crimes Against Humanity in Xinjiang” and calling on the Chinese government to end its crackdown on Uighurs and members of other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang and to release all those arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang detention camps.
Britain and Canada also immediately announced the same list of sanctions and measures as the EU. In his statement, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “The evidence of widespread human rights abuses in Xinjiang cannot be ignored – including reports of mass detention and surveillance, torture and forced sterilization.” He said the evidence is not only clear, but also sobering.
Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs also said in a statement that “there is a growing body of evidence pointing to systematic, state-led human rights violations by the Chinese Communist authorities. This includes the mass arbitrary detention of more than one million Uighurs and other Muslim minorities on the basis of religion and ethnicity, as well as political re-Education, forced labor, torture and forced sterilization.” Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau urged Beijing to allow independent international experts “free access” to the Xinjiang region to observe and report first-hand on the situation there.
It is also worth noting that Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Guanguo is not on the sanctions list of the EU, UK and Canada this time. Last July, he was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department along with Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan.
U.S., U.K. and Canada Unanimously Emphasize Allied Cooperation
The U.S., U.K. and Canada all emphasized in a statement that the current round of sanctions is the result of full cooperation with each other.
Secretary of State John Blinken said the U.S. sanctions are also a show of solidarity with our allies in this round of sanctions. He said, “These actions demonstrate our continued commitment to multilateral cooperation to promote respect for human rights and to expose those within the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party who are responsible for these atrocities.”
In a statement today, Blinken said, “A united transatlantic response sends a powerful signal to those who violate or trample on international human rights, and we will take further action in consultation with like-minded partners. We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to China’s crimes and justice for the many victims.”
Canadian Foreign Minister Garneau also said, “We join our partners in calling on the Chinese government to end this systematic campaign of repression against the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities and to hold those responsible accountable.”
In his statement to the British House of Commons today, British Foreign Minister Raab said, “It is clear that by acting with our partners, we are sending the clearest possible message to the Chinese government that the international community will not turn a blind eye to this gross and systematic violation of basic human rights and that we will work together to hold those responsible to account. “
Julian Ku, a professor of law at Hofstra University, believes that while the practical effect of the sanctions may not be obvious to the four targets, who may not have much overseas assets in the first place, the willingness of the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada to join the United States in taking action on the Xinjiang issue is still significant because the Chinese government has always maintained that the Xinjiang issue is an internal The Chinese government has always maintained that the Xinjiang issue is an internal matter that no one should interfere with.
This changes the narrative in China,” he told VOA. The Chinese government has always said that this is a U.S. conspiracy to suppress China, that it is driven by U.S. interests to contain or attack China… Now that other countries have taken action, it’s hard to say that this is just a U.S. action, but rather that many countries around the world, at least some including the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, have similar views to the United States, that what’s happening in Xinjiang is serious and that the rest of the world should be concerned about these things.”
Biden’s first salvo to unite friends to control China?
The Trump administration has taken a number of tough measures on numerous China issues, including the Xinjiang issue, but has been widely criticized for not focusing on uniting allies for action. The Biden Administration has consistently emphasized the need to make uniting allies a foreign policy priority, especially in dealing with the Chinese challenge.
Goo told VOA that uniting with allies to confront China is a clearly stated strategy of the Biden administration, rather than acting alone as the Trump team has tended to do. So while there is no way to know exactly what role the Biden administration will play in this transatlantic unification of sanctions against Xinjiang, that is the way the Biden administration most wants to act.
But Goochulen also believes that this is not entirely the result of the Biden administration.
“I believe there is an element within the EU that they are changing their view of China, and that is part of it. So it’s not because of Biden that we’re seeing this kind of action,” Gujulun said, “but it’s clearly something that the Biden team is trying to do, and it’s something that they should see as a step that they’ve taken successfully, because it’s a step that will lead them to build their next strategy, which is to continue to work with countries to counter China. “
Chris Balding, an American economist who has taught in China and Vietnam for many years, believes that this round of joint transatlantic sanctions is actually not too strong, and that not a single central government-level official has been sanctioned. He also pointed out that the United States to really change the way Europe or Canada and other allies to deal with China is still a long way to go, especially considering that only a few months ago, Europe and China signed a large-scale investment agreement despite U.S. opposition.
But he also sees the push for the joint sanctions as a small step forward for the Biden administration.
I think the credit for moving this process forward is rightfully due to the Biden administration, but I don’t think it’s a big victory,” he told Voice of America.
How many more countries will join the action?
After the joint sanctions, it will be interesting to see if there are other countries that will support it, Gujulen told VOA.
On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Secretary of State issued a joint statement with the foreign ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, agreeing with the Chinese government’s massive crackdown and persecution of human rights in Xinjiang and calling on China to end its oppression of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang and to release those already arbitrarily detained by China.
According to Gujulun, the attitude of other countries in Southeast Asia and Africa is worth watching. He noted that in response to these regions, China will tell them that this is an unfair treatment of China by developed Western countries.
“For that, the U.S. and the EU have to try to push back and emphasize that this is a sincere, cooperative effort by all countries to really address what is really happening,” Gujulen said, “because all of these actions are not driven by changes in the U.S.-China or China-EU relationship, but by what is happening in Xinjiang. driven by what’s happening.”