China and the US have worsened this year with sanctions the latest shot between the two countries. US President Donald Trump has attacked China over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and democracy abuses in Hong Kong. China has attacked the US for sanctions against its tech firms and for supporting pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The Trump administration announced sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese Communist Party officials involved in brutal Uighur Muslim concentration camps in Xinjiang.
Both the US Treasury and State department declared the new measures against China for human rights violations against Uighurs.
The violations China have been accused of include mass detention, religious persecution and forced sterilisation of the minority group.
China has denied any mistreatment of the group, and called for the sanctions to be lifted.
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The Trump administration has said the sanction targets CCP officials, and is mostly aimed at Xinjiang regional Communist party leader Chen Quanguo.
Mr Quanguo is the highest-ranking Chinese official to ever be hit with US sanctions, and is seen as responsible for the concentration camps.
Three other CCP officials are blocked from entering the US by the new measures.
It is also now a crime in the US to do business with the four officials, and their American assets have been seized by the government.
Sanctions have also been placed on the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau for their involvement in the mass detention.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has stated the US is acting against “horrific and systematic abuses” in Xinjiang.
He said: “The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang.”
On Mr Quanguo, Pompeo said: Before ramping up the CCP’s campaign of repression in Xinjiang, Chen oversaw extensive abuses in Tibetan areas, using many of the same horrific practices and policies CCP officials currently employ in Xinjiang.
“The United States is taking action today against the horrific and systematic abuses in Xinjiang and calls on all nations who share our concerns about the CCP’s attacks on human rights and fundamental freedoms to join us in condemning this behaviour.”
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China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has decried the sanctions, and said in a speech relations between the two countries is facing “its most serious challenge”.
Mr Wang attempted to cool tensions with the US, and said: “We are still willing to grow China-US relations with goodwill and sincerity.
“Some friends in the US might have become suspicious or even wary of a growing China.
“I’d like to stress here again that China never intends to challenge or replace the US, or have full confrontation with the US… what we hope for most is to maintain peace and stability of the world.”
The sanctions are a firm stance against China’s human rights abuses, but White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany stressed they were unrelated to any trade deals.
However, former national security adviser John Bolton claimed in his book that Mr Trump said to Chinese President Xi Jinping he had no issue with the concentration camps.
In his book, Bolton said: “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
The White House has denied Bolton’s claims, and furthermore claimed his book is full of “falsehoods”.