The Biden administration on Monday sanctioned Chinese government officials over "serious human rights abuse" against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and warned that China will continue to face consequences should the "atrocities" continue.
The Treasury Department, on Monday, sanctioned two current Chinese government officials in connection with the human rights abuses – Wang Junzheng, the secretary of the party committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau.
The U.S. is "committed to using the full breadth" of its financial powers to "promote accountability for the serious human rights abuses occurring in Xinjiang," the Treasury Department said.
"Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang," said director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki. "Treasury is committed to promoting accountability for the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities."
The Biden administration’s actions Monday complemented actions also taken by the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, which imposed sanctions on these individuals and others.
"The United States will continue to play a strong leadership role in global efforts to combat serious human rights abuse in Xinjiang and around the world through the Global Magnitsky sanctions program," the Treasury Department said. "Complementary actions using these global human rights sanctions regimes enable like-minded partners to form a unified front to identify, promote accountability for, and disrupt access to the international financial system by those who abuse human rights."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday’s actions "demonstrate our ongoing commitment to working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights and shining a light on those in the PRC government and CCP responsible for these atrocities."
Meanwhile, the White House said the administration continues "to have grave concerns against China’s crimes against humanity and genocide" on Uyghurs.
"This is an issue, and it was an issue raised by the president in his conversation with the Chinese president a few weeks ago," White House press secretary Jan Psaki said.
When asked whether the U.S. will impose further sanctions, Psaki said sanctions "are meant to deter behavior," but would not "rule in or rule out any actions" so early in the administration.
"I can assure you, obviously, we will be evaluating what appropriate next steps are in close coordination with allies and partners around the world," Psaki said, adding that the administration is "certain that the Chinese are noting that we are working much more closely with allies and partners" than the past administration.
The sanctions came after tense bilateral talks took place with Biden administration officials and Chinese officials in Alaska last week.
The White House said the Biden administration is ready to have a "frank conversation" with China and is negotiating from a position of "strength."
During Thursday's meeting, Blinken said the Biden administration is united with its allies in pushing back against China's increasing authoritarianism and assertiveness at home and abroad. Chinese Communist Party foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi then unloaded a list of Chinese complaints about the U.S. and accused Washington of hypocrisy for criticizing Beijing on human rights and other issues.
U.S.-China ties have been torn for years, and the Biden administration has yet to signal whether it's ready or willing to back away from the hard-line stances taken under Donald Trump.
Just a day before the meeting, Blinken announced new sanctions over Beijing's crackdown on pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong. In response, China stepped up its rhetoric opposing U.S. interference in domestic affairs and complained directly about it.
Trump had taken pride in forging what he saw as a strong relationship with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. But the relationship disintegrated after the coronavirus pandemic spread from the Wuhan province across the globe and unleashed a public health and economic disaster.
Fox News' Rich Edson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.