FILE PHOTO: Chinese and U.S. flags flutter near The Bund, before U.S. trade delegation meet their Chinese counterparts for talks in Shanghai, China July 30, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo/File Photo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States has imposed visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials it believes responsible for the detention or abuse of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province, the U.S. State Department said on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cited the decision of the Commerce Department on Monday to add 28 Chinese public security bureaus and companies – including video surveillance company Hikvision – to a U.S. trade blacklist over Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities. The visa restrictions “complement” the Commerce Department actions, he said.
U.S. officials previously said the Trump administration was considering sanctions against officials linked to China’s crackdown on Muslims, including Xinjiang Party Secretary Chen Quanguo, who, as a member of the powerful politburo, is in the upper echelons of China’s leadership.
The State Department announcement did not name the officials subject to the visa restrictions, but news of the action sent U.S. stocks down. Many analysts believe U.S. government actions make it much less likely that China and the United States will reach a deal this week to resolve a trade war.
“The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” Pompeo said.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment. China has consistently denied any mistreatment of Uighurs.
Republican U.S. Senator Tom Cotton praised the State Department announcement and urged U.S. allies to follow suit. Chinese “officials who place Uighurs and other minority groups in concentration camps shouldn’t be allowed to visit the United States and enjoy our freedoms.”
Those added by the Commerce Department to the “Entity List” include the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region People’s Government Public Security Bureau, 19 subordinate government agencies and eight commercial firms, according to a Commerce Department filing.
The companies include some of China’s leading artificial intelligence firms such as SenseTime Group Ltd, and Megvii Technology Ltd, which is backed by Alibaba, as well as Hikvision, formally known as Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co Ltd, Zhejiang Dahua Technology, IFLYTEK Co, Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co, and Yixin Science and Technology Co.
Reporting by Eric Beech and David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Peter Cooney