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White House sanctions dozens accused of human rights abuses, including China, Russia

The Biden administration on Friday announced a slew of new sanctions that target individuals and entities described as carrying out human rights abuses and repression in China, Russia, North Korea, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

The sanctions come on International Human Rights Day and on the second day of President Biden’s “Summit for Democracy,” a virtual, global gathering of more than 100 countries aimed at revitalizing democratic governance and support for human rights.

China and Russia have condemned the conference as an effort to stoke tensions. 

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the sanctions announced Friday were made in coordination with the United Kingdom and Canada.  

“On International Human Rights Day, Treasury is using its tools to expose and hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights abuse,” Adeyemo said in a statement. “Our actions today, particularly those in partnership with the United Kingdom and Canada, send a message that democracies around the world will act against those who abuse the power of the state to inflict suffering and repression.”

The sanctions target 15 individuals and 10 entities across five countries. 

In China, the Biden administration sanctioned individuals and entities targeted for leading or overseeing an agency that, during their tenure, engaged in serious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and members of other predominantly Muslim ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang region, Treasury said.  

The U.S. had earlier made a determination that the Chinese Communist Party is carrying out a campaign of genocide against Uyghurs and other minority Muslims in Xinjiang, which includes the detention of up to 1 million people in these groups.  

The sanctioned individuals include Shohrat Zakir, who served as chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China from at least 2018 until 2021, and Erken Tuniyaz, who serves as the acting chairman of the region and had served as its vice chairman since 2008. 

The sanctions impose visa restrictions on Zakir and Tuniyaz, making them ineligible for entry to the U.S.

The administration also blacklisted the Chinese firm SenseTime Group Limited, which Treasury says has operated or owned companies that operated surveillance technology found to be implemented in the targeting of Uyghurs through facial recognition programming. 

Further sanctions were levied against a Russian university, called the European Institute Justo, and its provost, Dmitriy Yurevich Soin, for exploiting a student visa program for North Koreans, allowing them to work in Russia. The foreign currency earnings for the North Koreans, the Treasury Department said, goes to support Pyongyang’s “unlawful weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.”

At least one North Korean and two Chinese animation studios were also blacklisted by the Treasury Department for evading sanctions on North Korea and funneling millions of dollars back to the Hermit Kingdom. 

Further, the U.S. sanctioned North Korea’s Central Public Prosecutors Office and its former minister of social security Ri Young Gil.  

Other sanctions targeted four officials and three entities in Myanmar for contributing to human rights abuses and repression following the military coup in the country in February.  

Treasury highlighted the role of the military and its appointed government in the killing of at least 82 people on April 9, the highest number of casualties in a single day since the coup on Feb. 1.   

In Bangladesh, the U.S. is sanctioning the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) as threatening American interests in the region by “undermining the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the economic prosperity of the people of Bangladesh.”

The U.S. also sanctioned six individuals associated with RAB, the military group accused of carrying out more than 600 disappearances since 2009, nearly 600 extrajudicial killings since 2018 and torture. 

Tags Joe Biden Wally Adeyemo

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