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White House Mulls Sanctions Against China Over Muslim Camps – Report

© AFP 2023 / GOH CHAI HINUrumqi, farwest China's Xinjiang region
Urumqi, farwest China's Xinjiang region - Sputnik International
This would be the first time the US sanctioned China over human rights violations.

The Trump administration is considering introducing economic sanctions against China for violations of human rights, citing Uygur minority internment camps, the New York Times reported Monday.

According to sources cited by the newspaper, the idea has been discussed around the White House, Treasury Department and State Department for months already.

Aside from the usual economic sanctions, the US is also considering limits on surveillance technology sold to China that Beijing allegedly uses to monitor Uygurs, the newspaper reports.

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The sanctions are based on last month's United Nations report citing "credible reports" that at least 1 million Uygur people are being detained in internment camps, where they undergo forcible brainwashing procedures, accompanied by torture and extreme forms of surveillance.

China refuted the report, telling the UN Panel on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that it was "completely untrue." On August 13, Hu Lianhe, a senior official with the Chinese government agency that oversees ethnic and religious affairs in the country, told the panel that "there is no arbitrary detention" of the Uygur minority and that "there are no such things as reeducation centers," according to Vox.

If implemented, the sanctions would mark the first time Trump administration has acted against China for reasons relating to human rights, the newspaper reports, noting that the whole issue comes at times of already heightened tensions between the two countries.

On Friday, US President Donald Trump pledged that he is prepared to impose an additional $267 billion in tariffs on Chinese products, on top to the $200 billion he has already promised.

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There are some 10 million Uygurs — a Muslim minority population — in China's westernmost Xinjiang province. According to Vox, China claims to be conducting a policy of fighting Islamic extremism and separatism in the province, but critics of the policy say it aims to curtail Muslim traditions and practices.

"In the name of combating religious extremism and maintaining social stability, China has turned the Xinjiang region into something that resembles a massive internment camp that is shrouded in secrecy, a sort of ‘no rights zone,'" Gay McDougall, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said in Geneva earlier this month.

The policy includes ban on foreign travelling, confiscation of mobile phones for further inspection of stored data and promotion of drinking and smoking (since devout Muslims do not drink), among other things, Vox reports. The internment camps in question are used for "reeducation" procedures, which include "bizarre exercises aimed at ‘brainwashing' [people] as well as physical torture and deprivation," according to the report.

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