The State Department announced on Monday that in response to “repressive acts” against ethnic and religious minorities, the travel visas of some Chinese government officials are being restricted.
The official statement said that the U.S. rejects Chinese efforts to “harass, intimidate, surveil, and abduct” persons in the minority groups. It also condemned China’s acts against American citizens and others who speak on behalf of the “vulnerable populations.” The statement added that the State Department is committed to “defending human rights around the world” and will promote international accountability with economic and diplomatic measures.
In announcing the visa restrictions, no specific individuals were named. A spokesperson said that individual visa records are considered confidential under federal law. It is believed that the targeted Chinese officials are responsible for the efforts to repress the minority groups as well as dissidents, human rights activists, journalists, and labor organizers.
The travel sanctions come days after Joe Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping as tensions increase between the two nations over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. has expressed concern that China may assist the Russian war effort through military aid or assistance in avoiding Western financial sanctions.
Xi stressed the need for an agreement that would end the conflict in Ukraine while alluding to the problems the U.S. would have if Taiwan is “not handled properly.”
The Department of Justice also announced last week that it had filed charges against five men it alleges acted on behalf of China in developing schemes to stalk and intimidate Chinese dissidents.
The U.S. officially accused China of committing genocide against the minority Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang province over a year ago. The communist country has operated concentration camps and has used high-tech surveillance methods to compel the forced labor of over 1 million Uyghurs.
The statement also called on China to end its “acts of translational repression.” Those actions include silencing Uyghurs and American activists and denying exit visas to their family members wishing to leave China.
The State Department said that it will continue to work with allies in the international community to obtain accountability from Chinese officials who are part of human rights atrocities wherever they take place.
Spokesperson Liu Pengyu said from the Chinese embassy in the U.S. that the travel restrictions violate “international norms” and are interfering in Chinese internal affairs. Liu added that China intends to take “firm and forceful measures” in defense of its sovereignty.