U.S. mulls sanctions on Chinese officials over rights abuses in Xinjiang
The United States is considering sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations against Muslims in China's Xinjiang region, a U.S. State Department spokesman said on Thursday, calling it a "great shame for humanity."
"We are committed to promoting accountability for those who are committing these violations and considering targeted sanctions as well, targeted measures, as well," spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters at a briefing.
"We will continue to call on China to end these policies and to free these people who have been arbitrarily detained," he said.
A leading researcher on China's ethnic policies estimates there could be 1.5 million Uighurs and other Muslims being held in so-called re-education centers in Xinjiang region, up from his earlier figure of 1 million.
China has faced growing international opprobrium for what it says are vocational training centres in Xinjiang, a vast region bordering central Asia that is home to millions of ethnic minority Muslims.
Beijing has said the measures are needed to stem the threat of Islamist extremism. The governor of Xinjiang, Shohrat Zakir, said on Tuesday that China is running boarding schools not concentration camps or re-education camps in the remote region.
'Campaign of cultural genocide'
Adrian Zenz, an independent German researcher, said that his new estimate was based on satellite images, public spending on detention facilities and witness accounts of overcrowded facilities and missing family members.
"Although it is speculative it seems appropriate to estimate that up to 1.5 million ethnic minorities — equivalent to just under one in six adult members of a predominantly Muslim minority group in Xinjiang — are or have been interned in any of these detention, internment and re-education facilities, excluding formal prisons," Zenz said at an event on Wednesday organized by the U.S. mission in Geneva, home of United Nations human rights bodies.
"The Chinese state's present attempt to eradicate independent and free expressions of the distinct ethnic and religious identities in Xinjiang is nothing less than a systematic campaign of cultural genocide and should be treated as such," Zenz added.
The U.S. State Department has sharply criticized human rights violations in China, saying the sort of abuses it had inflicted on its Muslim minorities had not been seen "since the 1930s."