Groups advocating for China’s beleaguered Uyghur Muslim minority are using Monday’s announcement of US and international sanctions against Chinese officials to build momentum for further action against the Chinese government and those they see as complicit in its human rights abuses.
Two Washington-based organizations, Campaign for Uyghurs (CFU) and the self-proclaimed East Turkistan Government in Exile, welcomed the sanctions against Chinese government officials for their alleged connection to serious human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China. The sanctions were a concerted action by the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union as the Joe Biden administration seeks to build an international coalition against Beijing.
However, activists believe there are more steps to take.
“While sanctions are important, they’re not particularly effective unless they’re widely applied and coordinated with other actions,” Julie Millsap, the director of public affairs and advocacy at the Campaign for Uyghurs, told Foreign Lobby Report. “So we need to have more legislative efforts to address US complicity in this genocide and break ties with the Communist Party of China.”
One priority for the group in the coming months is passage of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in Congress. The bill from Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), which passed the House in September but died in the Senate, would prohibit imports from the Xinjiang region of China unless companies can prove they weren’t produced using forced labor. Major US companies with supply chains that touch the region, including Coca-Cola, Nike and Apple, have been lobbying to weaken the bill, the New York Times reported in November.
“With so many corporations that are profiting off of the Uyghur genocide,” Millsap said, “it is it is very unlikely that China will stop unless that type of economic pressure is applied.”
The East Turkistan Government in Exile, a group of indigenous Uyghurs and Kazakhs from Xinjiang who banded together in Washington in 2004, shared a similar outlook.
“While we are thankful for these actions, sanctions alone are not enough,” the group’s president, Canadian Uyghur politician Ghulam Osman Yaghma, said in a statement. “We urge Canada, the EU, UK, and the US to boycott the Beijing 2022 Olympics, grant priority refugee status for Uyghurs and others fleeing the genocide, and bring the plight of East Turkistan to the agenda of the UN Security Council.”
A US Olympic boycott faces long odds, however. As of today a resolution from Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) urging such a move had garnered just 16 co-sponsors. Meanwhile White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last month that the administration would look for guidance from the U.S. Olympic Committee, which opposes boycotts.
Monday’s action targeted Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the Party Committee of the paramilitary Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. They are accused of connections to “serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, which reportedly includes arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse,” according to a Treasury Department press release.
“We underline the importance of transparency and accountability and call on China to grant the international community, including independent investigators from the United Nations, journalists, and foreign diplomats, unhindered access to Xinjiang,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “We will continue to stand together to shine a spotlight on China’s human rights violations. We stand united and call for justice for those suffering in Xinjiang.”