US voices concern on China’s Muslim crackdown, sanctions weighed

In this July 10, 2009, file photo, Chinese paramilitary police practice during a break from patrol in Urumqi, western China's Xinjiang province. (AP)
Updated 12 September 2018
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US voices concern on China’s Muslim crackdown, sanctions weighed

  • Beijing has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from militants and separatists
  • A UN rights panel said it had received credible reports that up to one million ethnic Uighurs may be held in extra-legal detention in Xinjiang

WASHINGTON: The US State Department on Tuesday expressed deep concern over China’s “worsening crackdown” on minority Muslims in the Xinjiang region, as the Trump administration considered sanctions against Chinese senior officials and companies linked to allegations of human rights abuses.
Discussions have gained momentum within the US government over possible economic penalties in response to reports of mass detentions of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims, which has prompted a growing international outcry, US congressional sources said.
Any sanctions decision would be a rare move on human rights grounds by the Trump administration against China, with which it is engaged in a trade war while also seeking Beijing’s help to resolve a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
A US official said the idea of sanctions was still in the discussion stage, and one of the congressional sources said a decision did not appear to be imminent.
“We’re deeply troubled by the worsening crackdown, not just on Uighurs (but also) Kazakhs, other Muslims in that region of China,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a news briefing, renewing concerns expressed in recent months by top administration officials.
Nauert acknowledged that the State Department had received a letter from a bipartisan group of US lawmakers at the end of August asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to impose sanctions on a number of Chinese officials accused of overseeing the policies. Those included Chen Quanguo, Communist Party chief in Xinjiang and also a member of the Party’s politburo.
Also under consideration are sanctions the lawmakers sought against several Chinese companies involved in building detention camps and creating surveillance systems used to track and monitor Uighurs, according to one of the congressional sources.
Nauert declined to discuss details of any US government action. “We’re not going to preview any sanctions that may or may not happen,” Nauert said.
The Washington-based Uyghur Human Rights Project tweeted a photo of activist Dolkun Isa, president of World Uyghur Congress, at the White House on Monday along with the comment, “A meeting with White House officials today provided much-needed encouragement for Uyghur human-rights advocates.”
Isa, speaking to Reuters by telephone from Brussels, where he said he was due to meet EU officials on Wednesday, declined to say which White House officials he had met in Washington.
Isa said he had the impression from the Americans that “they are seriously considering” imposing sanctions on senior Chinese officials, including Chen, the Party chief in the far western region.
China earlier on Tuesday called for United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet to respect its sovereignty after she urged Beijing to allow monitors into the region and expressed concern about the situation there.
Beijing has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tension between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority who call the region home and members of the ethnic Han Chinese majority.
Last month, a UN rights panel said it had received credible reports that up to one million ethnic Uighurs may be held in extra-legal detention in Xinjiang, and called for them to be freed.
“There are credible reports out there that many, many thousands have been detained in detention centers since April 2017, and the numbers are fairly significant from what we can tell so far,” Nauert said.
US sanctions could be imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, a federal law that allows the US government to target human rights violators around the world with freezes on any US assets, US travel bans, and prohibitions on Americans doing business with them.


Pro-Trump diplomat to become Brazil’s foreign minister

Updated 46 min 37 sec ago
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Pro-Trump diplomat to become Brazil’s foreign minister

  • Araujo has praised Trump’s approach to foreign relations, saying the US leader proposes a view of the West that is based on the recovery of its symbolic past
  • The Brazilian diplomat believes globalism is an anti-Christian ideology

SAO PAULO: President-elect Jair Bolsonaro announced Wednesday that he is naming an admirer of US President Donald Trump to be Brazil’s foreign minister in the new administration.
Bolsonaro, a far-right politician who takes office Jan. 1, went on Twitter to announce the choice of diplomat Ernesto Araujo.
Araujo now heads the foreign ministry’s department for United States, Canada and Inter-American affairs. He is anti-left and a self-proclaimed nationalist, and he campaigned for Bolsonaro, who was elected Oct.28.
“The Brazilian foreign policy must be a part of the moment of recovery that Brazil lives today,” the president-elect said about his appointee.
Araujo has praised Trump’s approach to foreign relations, saying the US leader proposes a view of the West that is based on the recovery of its symbolic past. The Brazilian diplomat also believes globalism is an anti-Christian ideology.
Bolsonaro, a former army captain and longtime congressman, has on several occasions compared himself to Trump, although many analysts say his tough anti-crime and pro-gun positions resemble more those of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
Some diplomats were surprised with Araujo’s appointment because he has never been in charge of an embassy during his 29-year diplomatic service.
Bolsonaro’s aggressive rhetoric has already caused tensions with Egypt and Cuba, issues that Araujo will deal with once in office.
The Arab nation canceled a trip of Brazilian lawmakers this year after the president-elect promised to move the Brazilian Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Bolsonaro later said the decision was not taken.
Cuba announced earlier Wednesday that it was ending a program that sent almost 9,000 medics to Brazil, acting after Bolsonaro said the program could continue only under new conditions. Among other things, he said the doctors must receive their salaries directly from Brazil and not through the Cuban government and be allowed to bring their families with them during their assignments.
Bolsonaro will also be starting his administration with some friction with China, which has invested billions of dollars in energy, infrastructure and oil projects in Brazil. During the campaign, he complained: “The Chinese are not buying in Brazil. They are buying Brazil itself.”
In a recent editorial in the China Daily newspaper, the Chinese government warned Bolsonaro against aggressive statements aimed at China, saying they could cause troubles for Brazil. Soon afterward Bolsonaro was visited by China’s ambassador to Brasilia.