Chinese officials face new U.S. visa restrictions for repression of Muslim minorities

Tiananmen Square in Beijing is seen in a file photo. Thirty years ago on the night of June 3 into June 4, student protesters were massacred by Chinese military. (Shutterstock)

CASPER, Wyo. — China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang (新疆) is home to several primarily Muslim minority groups.

The United States Department of State says the Chinese government has implemented a number of repressive policies and taken unacceptable actions in the region.

“The Chinese government has instituted a highly repressive campaign against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) that includes mass detentions in internment camps; pervasive, high-tech surveillance; draconian controls on expressions of cultural and religious identities; and coercion of individuals to return from abroad to an often perilous fate in China,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an Oct. 8 press release.

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Pompeo announced the following as a response to China’s treatment of these groups:

-Visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, China.  Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.

-These visa restrictions complement yesterday’s announcement by the Department of Commerce regarding the imposition of export restrictions on U.S. products exported to 28 entities, including elements of the Public Security Bureau and commercial companies in Xinjiang, involved in China’s campaign of surveillance, detention, and repression.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

He called for China to end their repressive practices in Xinjiang, which is supposed to have some degree of autonomous rule. As NPR reports, minorities in the region are often forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, the official language of the state.

As the South China Morning Post reports, China has also enacted policies to encourage Han Chinese, the majority ethnic group in the country, to migrate to Xinjiang. This is a practice they’ve carried out in regions like Tibet and Hong Kong as well to strengthen control in these areas.

“The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” Pompeo says. 

“The protection of human rights is of fundamental importance, and all countries must respect their human rights obligations and commitments.  The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these abuses.”