China’s relationship with Western countries such as the US has grown tense over the Uyghur issue
On Saturday, China announced new sanctions on US and Canadian officials after several countries imposed measures over Beijing’s treatment of mostly Muslim Uyghurs.
The sanctions targeted Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins, two members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, who are now forbidden from entering mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong. Canadian MP Michael Chong and an eight-member Canadian parliamentary committee on human rights were also hit with a Chinese travel ban.
“They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form and refrain from going further down the wrong path,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement announcing the sanctions.
“Otherwise, they will get their fingers burnt,” according to the statement.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Chinese sanctions “unacceptable actions.”
“We will continue to defend human rights around the world with our international partners,” Trudeau said on Twitter.
Earlier this week, the US, EU, UK and Canada imposed sanctions on various Chinese officials accused of committing human rights abuses against Uyghurs in the western region of Xinjiang.
Beijing already slapped retaliatory sanctions this week on UK and EU lawmakers in response.
China has also faced criticism from foreign companies on the Uyghur issue, with the Swedish retailer H&M and other clothing brands deciding to boycott cotton from Xinjiang. H&M clothing disappeared from the internet in China as of Friday after Chinese e-commerce sites such as Alibaba removed its products from their listings.
Chinese actors, models and singers have spoken out against international clothing brands on social media over the cotton boycott. Celebrities shared the “I support Xinjiang cotton” hashtag on Chinese social network Weibo in a wave of nationalistic backlash against the clothing companies.
The US State Department has condemned China’s attacks on foreign brands. US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also expressed concerns on Friday about Beijing’s retaliatory actions in response to Western sanctions.
Several governments and human rights observers have reported that China’s government is holding as many as a million Uyghurs in camps across Xinjiang, subjecting them to torture, rape and other forms of abuse. Critics report that the camps are used to indoctrinate Uyghurs with Chinese Communist Party beliefs to quell separatism in the Xinjiang region.
According to China’s government, the camps are used to give Uyghurs “vocational training” to help them enter the workforce. Officials claim that the camps are necessary to combat terrorism and alleviate poverty in the region.
The US government-funded NGO Freedom House claims that China’s government considers the beliefs of the Uyghur minority a threat to national unity. China’s government has imposed restrictions on perceived Muslim attire in Xinjiang and regulated Uyghur activities during Islamic holidays such as Ramadan.