Beijing on Monday vowed to shield a Chinese government institute and eight companies sanctioned by the US over alleged human rights violations in the restive Xinjiang region, where China is accused of mass repression of mostly Muslim minorities.
The US Department of Commerce announced the sanctions on Friday, saying they were triggered by human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minority groups in Xinjiang in China’s far northwest.
Beijing urged Washington to reverse the decision, saying the Commerce Department had “stretched the concept of national security” to “meddle in China’s affairs and harm China’s interests”.
“China will take all necessary measures to protect the legal rights and interests of Chinese companies,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing.
The Commerce Department said the nine parties were “complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labour and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs” and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
All nine are now subject to restrictions on exports from the US, the department added.
Washington has been increasingly active in its criticism of China’s treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, and in October blacklisted 28 entities involved in alleged rights violation there.
The US House of Representatives and Senate are yet to reconcile similar acts approved last year that would seek sanctions on officials over abuses, and restrict exports of surveillance gear and other equipment seen as assisting in repression in Xinjiang.
An estimated one million mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are being held in internment camps in Xinjiang.
Uighur activists say China is conducting a massive brainwashing campaign aimed at eradicating their distinct culture and Islamic identity.
China describes the camps as vocational training sites intended to offer an alternative to Islamic extremism.
Tensions are also growing between the world’s two largest economies after President Donald Trump accused China of misleading the world on the origins of the coronavirus, which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
Beijing has furiously denied the allegation, and its foreign minister Wang Yi said Sunday that Washington was pushing both sides to “the brink of a new Cold War”.