A bloc of western nations including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union approved new sanctions against four Chinese officials involved in operating concentration camps for Uyghurs in Xinjiang on Monday.
While the list includes a number of high-ranking officials, it notably excludes Chen Quanguo, who was blacklisted by the United States last year, but not the other three countries and supranational entities. Chen is the top Communist Party official in the region.
Zhu Hailun, former deputy Xinjiang Communist Party head, is among the officials who have been sanctioned. According to the bloc, Zhu played a key role in constructing the surveillance state which pervades Xinjiang to this day. He also oversaw the region's network of concentration camps, in which millions of ethnic Uyghurs have been imprisoned as part of the Chinese government's ongoing cultural genocide of the region.
Wang Junzheng, political commissar of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, is also included on the list. He is also the security chief for the region.
Both Zhu and Wang were already sanctioned by the United States government.
The other two targeted officials are Wang Mingshan, who serves on the Xinjiang Communist Party's standing committee, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (PSB). The PSB itself has also been sanctioned by the bloc of countries. According to the US Treasury Department, the two individuals "are connected to serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, which reportedly includes arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse, among other serious human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs."
According to the UK sanctions list, the four officials share "responsibility for the administration of China's so-called 're-education' policy in [Xinjiang] and therefore [are] responsible also for serious violations of the right not to be subject to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that have taken place in so-called 'training centres.'"
The sanctions are the first to be placed on Chinese officials by the EU since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, during which Chinese troops massacred thousands of protesters, many of whom were students and workers. The United States, however, has been sanctioning Chinese officials since the Trump administration. Canada has also engaged in diplomatic retaliation against the Chinese government over the arbitrary detainment of citizens Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.
Chinese ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming said that the Chinese government plans on retaliating against the sanctions, saying that his government will target "EU institutions that have been spearheading accusations against China's Xinjiang policies" and "individuals in EU countries who have behaved badly."
The EU also placed a series of new sanctions on people and organizations in Russia, Libya, North Korea, South Sudan, and Eritrea.
Under the sanctions, the affected individuals will not be allowed to travel to the imposing countries and their assets within them will be frozen. The sanctions also make it illegal for companies based in such countries to conduct business relations with the affected individuals or the PSB.
The Chinese government has been pursuing a policy of cultural genocide in East Turkestan, which their government refers to as Xinjiang, for a number of years now, although it is unclear exactly when the policy began. Millions of Uyghurs have been deported to concentration camps where they have been the victims of torture, sexual abuse, slavery, ideological indoctrination, and forced sterilization and abortions.
"We remain deeply concerned by the egregious human rights violations that are taking place in Xinjiang at the hands of the Chinese state," Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement. "Today, we are joining our partners in calling on the Government of China to put an end to this systemic campaign of repression against Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities and to hold those responsible to account."
Garneau had previously received criticism, along with the rest of the Liberal cabinet, for abstaining from voting on whether to officially recognize the Chinese government's conduct in East Turkestan as a genocide.
The vote to recognize it passed nonetheless, however, with both the United States and Canada now recognizing the Chinese government's actions as a genocide. A Canadian parliamentary subcommittee directly compared the actions of the Chinese government to those of the Nazis last year.