The United States is imposing visa restrictions on the Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for the detention or abuse of the Uighurs — Muslim ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, China.
“Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on Tuesday.
In a tweet, Pompeo said those officials are also believed to be complicit in the abuse of Kazakhs.
Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) October 8, 2019
While no specific names of Chinese officials are mentioned in the statement, U.S. officials and Congressional members had said the Trump administration was considering sanctions against officials linked to China's human rights abuses on Muslims, including Xinjiang Party Secretary ChenQuanguo.
A State Department official told VOA on Tuesday that visa records are “confidential” under U.S. law, therefore, the State Department “will not discuss or disclose” individual applications of this visa policy.
“These visa restrictions are a direct response to Beijing’s highly repressive campaign against Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang,” the official added.
State Department’s visa restrictions are said to “complement” Commerce Department’s actions on Monday, where 28 Chinese companies and agencies were blacklisted in the so-called “entity list.”
Groups on the list are forbidden from buying various high-tech parts and components from U.S. companies without U.S. government permission.
Beijing said the move by the Trump administration interferes with China's internal affairs.
“I must point out that Xinjiang affairs are purely China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a news briefing earlier Tuesday.
“China deplores and firmly opposes” the U.S. actions, Geng added.
The U.S. Commerce Department said all those on the list, including the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region security bureau, have been accused of being part of the Chinese government's campaign of repression, arbitrary mass arrests, and spying against Muslim minorities.
"The U.S. government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said. "This action will ensure that our technologies, fostered in an environment of individual liberty and free enterprise, are not used to suppress defenseless minority populations."
China denies any deliberate campaign to oppress Muslim minorities, saying it is targeting those it calls religious extremists.
It also dismisses reports of brutal prison camps for Uighurs, calling them education camps and training centers where there is no mistreatment.