National Security

Trump Admin Sanctions Chinese Paramilitary Group Engaged in Mass Human-Rights Abuses

New sanctions mark escalation in U.S. campaign to expose China's abuse of minorities

Chinese paramilatary police patrol on a street in Urumqi, capital of China's Xinjiang region
Chinese paramilatary police patrol on a street in Urumqi, capital of China's Xinjiang region / Getty Images

The Trump administration on Friday issued a set of sanctions on a Chinese paramilitary organization that U.S. officials say is complicit in the Communist regime’s systematic abuse and detention of ethnic minorities.

New sanctions were leveled on two Communist Party officials and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a paramilitary group that has imprisoned, abused, and detained minority groups such as the ethnic Uyghur population, according to the State and Treasury Departments. The blacklisting of the XPCC freezes its assets and blocks Americans from doing business with it due to what the Treasury Department labeled as "serious rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region."

The sanctions mark a major escalation in the Trump administration’s efforts to expose China’s mass human-rights abuses and use of forced labor camps. Senior Trump administration officials familiar with the effort described the sanctions as unprecedented and said the administration would continue to penalize China for its human-rights abuses that are on scale with atrocities committed during World War II. The escalation in the administration’s growing standoff with China comes just a week after it shut down a Chinese consulate in Houston, where CCP officials allegedly conducted espionage operations, including the theft of U.S. medical research.

"The Chinese Communist Party’s human-rights abuses in Xinjiang, China, against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities rank as the stain of the century," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. "The Trump administration has led the world’s effort to impose tangible costs on the PRC’s continuous campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, intrusive surveillance, forced labor, forced population control, involuntary collection of biometric data, and genetic analyses targeted at these groups."

In addition to sanctioning the XPCC itself, the administration also targeted Sun Jinlong, a former political commissar of the XPCC, and Peng Jiarui, a deputy party secretary and commander of the XPCC. The sanctions are being applied under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which is used to expose human-rights violations across the globe.

A senior administration official familiar with the effort described it as another piece in an "unprecedented" effort by the Trump administration to expose China’s human-rights abuses and galvanize the world to hold the regime accountable. The sanctions, the official said, "actually impose real economic costs" on China.

The new designations are just the latest Trump administration action targeting China’s Xinjiang region, where the Uyghur population and other minorities are facing persecution.

In late May, the administration sanctioned nine Communist Party entities complicit in human-rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. This followed an October order listing 28 Chinese entities the United States says are fueling the oppression of ethnic minorities.

In early July, the administration issued a warning to U.S. businesses engaged in work with Xinjiang that they could be complicit in China’s human-rights violations.