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China Sanctions US, Canadian Citizens in Xinjiang Row


FILE - Michael Chong speaks at a Conservative Party of Canada debate in Toronto, Ontario, April 26, 2017. Chong was sanctioned by China March 27, 2021, in response to Canadian sanctions levied against China over treatment of Uyghurs.

China on Saturday announced tit-for-tat sanctions against two Americans, a Canadian and a rights advocacy body in response to sanctions imposed this week by the two countries over Beijing's treatment of Uyghurs.

Two members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins; Canadian Member of Parliament Michael Chong; and a Canadian parliamentary committee on human rights are prohibited from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Chong reacted by calling the sanctions a "badge of honor."

"We've got a duty to call out China for its crackdown in #HongKong & its genocide of #Uyghurs," Chong wrote on Twitter. "We who live freely in democracies under the rule of law must speak for the voiceless."

At least 1 million Uyghurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in northwestern Xinjiang, according to rights groups, who accuse authorities of forcibly sterilizing women and using forced labor.

The European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States sanctioned several members of Xinjiang's political and economic hierarchy this week in coordinated action over the allegations, prompting retaliation from Beijing in the form of sanctions on individuals from the EU and Britain.

China's foreign ministry on Saturday accused the U.S. and Canada of imposing sanctions "based on rumors and disinformation."

The sanctioned officials, who are also banned from conducting business with Chinese citizens and institutions, "must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China's internal affairs in any form," the ministry said.

"Otherwise, they will get their fingers burnt," the foreign ministry statement warned.

Later Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that China's sanctions were baseless and would only bring more scrutiny over the genocide in Xinjiang.

"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.

FILE - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a COVID-19 pandemic briefing from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Nov. 20, 2020.
FILE - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a COVID-19 pandemic briefing from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Nov. 20, 2020.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the sanctions were "an attack on transparency and freedom of expression."

"We will continue to defend human rights around the world with our international partners," he said on Twitter.

Trudeau's comments came after top Canadian diplomat Marc Garneau accused Beijing of deploying heavy-handed tactics.

"Bullies don't change unless you send very clear messages to them," Garneau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview recorded shortly before Beijing announced its retaliatory sanctions.

Consumer boycotts

The diplomatic standoff spilled over into the fashion world this week when pledges made last year by several companies to boycott Xinjiang cotton resurfaced this week on Chinese-owned social network Weibo, triggering additional controversy.

The resurfacing of the pledges, made by the likes of Sweden's H&M, American sportswear giant Nike, Germany's Adidas and Japan's Uniqlo, was denounced Friday by the United States, which implied the timely reappearance was a calculated move by Beijing.

"The U.S. condemns the PRC … social media campaign and corporate and consumer boycott against companies, including American, European and Japanese businesses," U.S. State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said, referring to the People's Republic of China.

Chinese celebrities and tech firms have pulled partnerships with companies ranging from Nike and H&M to Adidas, Burberry and Calvin Klein.

Beijing, which insists Xinjiang is an "internal affair," announced sanctions Friday against nine British individuals and four entities, saying they had "maliciously spread lies and disinformation" over the treatment of Uyghurs.

China flatly denies any abuses in the region, describing detention centers there as work camps intended to boost incomes and deter extremism in a region made restive by central control.

China previously sanctioned dozens of U.S. officials including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for "crazy moves" against Beijing under the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, Canada-China relations are at their lowest point in decades, with China trying two Canadians for alleged espionage this month while an extradition hearing in Vancouver for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou enters its final months.