The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada have announced sanctions against several Chinese officials over human rights in China’s Xinjiang region, but human rights groups said Tuesday (March 23) that they appear to have avoided the real target, Chen Quanguo, secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
The European Union on Monday announced sanctions against four Chinese officials and one entity in the Xinjiang region – Wang Junzheng, deputy party 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, a member of the Standing Committee of the Xinjiang Party Committee and secretary of the Political and Legal Committee; Zhu Hailun, former deputy party secretary and secretary of the Political and Legal Committee of Xinjiang; and the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps – for measures including a travel ban and freezing of overseas assets and transactions. The UK and Canada also immediately announced the same list of sanctions and measures as the EU.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also announced Monday that it had added Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo to its sanctions list for their “ties to serious human rights abuses against minorities in Xinjiang.
The U.K.-based Free Tibet said they avoided Chen Quanguo, secretary of the party committee of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. In a statement, the group said, “The officials sanctioned include Chen Quanguo’s direct deputy Zhu Hailun and several other lower-ranking officials, but Chen Quanguo himself is notably missing.”
The statement added that Free Tibet has been seeking sanctions against Chen since November last year because he is “the architect of atrocities against the Uighur people.
The group’s chief executive Sam Walton said the West was right to sanction the four officials, but that Western governments had “ignored” Chen, sending a message to China that “they are too afraid to take action against anyone who has real influence in the Central Politburo. They are too afraid to take action against anyone who has real influence in the Central Politburo,” he said.
He added: “The failure of international governments to challenge Chen’s behavior in Tibet has given him the position he now holds, allowing him to reproduce on a larger scale the methods he used in Tibet and to use them against the Uighurs. Once again, the government is putting trade ahead of human rights.”
In fact, while Xinjiang chief Chen Quanguo is not on the sanctions list of the EU, UK and Canada this Time, he was sanctioned by the US as early as last July.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on Chen Guanguo, a member of the Central Political Bureau and party secretary of Xinjiang, in July 2020 under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Then-Secretary of State Pompeo also issued a statement on the same day imposing sanctions and visa restrictions on Chen Guanguo and other senior Communist Party officials for human rights violations. These officials and their immediate Family members were barred from entering the United States.
According to Reuters, experts and diplomatic sources said the exclusion of Chen Quanguo from the sanctions list announced by some Western countries on Monday was an attempt to avoid a larger diplomatic dispute.