China vows retaliation against US sanctions over Xinjiang

FILE - In this June 10, 2020, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington. From Tokyo to Brussels, political leaders have swiftly decried Beijing's move to impose a tough national security law on Hong Kong that cracks down on subversive activity and protest in the semi-autonomous territory. But the rhetoric from democratic nations has more bark than bite. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BEIJING – China said Friday it will retaliate against U.S. officials and institutions following Washington’s imposition of sanctions on three local officials of the ruling Communist Party over human rights abuses in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

China will “definitely fight back” against actions it considers interference in its internal affairs and that which threaten its sovereignty, security and development interests, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters at a daily briefing.

Zhao said China “strongly opposes and condemns” the Trump administration’s decision to bar the three officials from entering the U.S., the latest in a series moves taken against China as relations deteriorate over the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, Hong Kong and trade.

“In response to the wrong practice of the U.S., China decided to take reciprocal measures against the relevant U.S. institutions and individuals who performed badly on the Xinjiang-related issues,” Zhao said.

The U.S. administration's Thursday announcement comes a day after it slapped visa bans on Chinese officials deemed responsible for barring foreigners’ access to Tibet. Thursday’s step, however, hits a more senior level of leadership, targeting Chen Quanguo, Xinjiang's ranking leader and a member of the party's Politburo, along with regional security officials Zhu Hailun and Wang Mingshan.

They and their immediate family members are banned from entering the United States. The Associated Press profiled Zhu as part of a package of stories last year.

The sanctions were announced a week after an AP investigation showed forced population control of the Uighurs and other largely Muslim minorities, one of the reasons cited by the State Department for the sanctions

“The United States will not stand idly by as the Chinese Communist Party carries out human rights abuses targeting Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.