China vows to hit back on new US sanctions

The US has imposed sanctions on Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.
The US has imposed sanctions on Xinjiang Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo.

China says it will take "reciprocal measures" against the United States after Washington imposed sanctions on senior Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority.

Beijing described the new US sanctions as "deeply detrimental" to mutual relations, already strained by differences over China's handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and its tightening grip on Hong Kong.

Washington imposed sanctions on the autonomous region of Xinjiang's Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, a member of China's powerful Politburo, and three other officials.

A senior US administration official described Chen as the highest-ranking Chinese official the United States had sanctioned.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing the US decision was a serious interference in Chinese affairs.

"In light of these wrong actions, China will impose reciprocal measures on US officials and organisations that have displayed egregious behaviour on human rights in relation to Xinjiang affairs," Zhao said on Friday.

"We urge the US to correct this wrong decision. If the US continues to proceed, China will take firm countermeasures."

Washington's sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the US government to target human rights violators worldwide by freezing any US assets, banning US travel and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

Sanctions were also imposed on Zhu Hailun, deputy secretary of the regional legislative body, the Xinjiang's People's Congress; Wang Mingshan, the director and Communist Party secretary of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau; and the former party secretary of the bureau, Huo Liujun.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was also barring Chen, Zhu, Wang and their immediate families, and other unnamed Chinese Communist Party officials, from travelling to the United States.

The World Uyghur Congress, the main exile group, welcomed the move and urged the European Union and other countries to follow suit.

Australian Associated Press