On Thursday, July 9, the United States imposed sanctions on four Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials for human rights abuses committed against the Uighur Muslim minority. Among those affected was a senior leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The measure could increase tensions between Washington and Beijing.

According to a Reuters report, the White House blacklisted the CCP’s secretary for the Xinjiang region, Chen Quanguo, a member of the CCP’s powerful Politburo, and three other officials.

A senior U.S. official quoted by the news agency described Cheng as the highest-ranking Chinese official ever to be sanctioned by the United States.

The blacklist is “no joke,” he said. “Not only in terms of symbolic and reputational affect, but it does have real meaning on a person’s ability to move around the world and conduct business,” he added.

The action comes amid growing tension between Washington and Beijing over the CCP’s handling of the CCP Virus (coronavirus) outbreak and its increasing control over Hong Kong.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment. The CCP has denied mistreatment of the Uighurs on the grounds that the camps provide vocational training and are necessary to combat extremism.

Chen is considered the highest ranking official responsible for security measures in Xinjiang. In 2016, he commanded massive “anti-terrorist” rallies in the region’s largest cities involving tens of thousands of paramilitary troops and police. 

The United Nations estimates that more than 1 million Muslims have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang region.

The sanctions were imposed under the Magnitsky Global Act, which allows the White House to punish human rights violators around the world by freezing all assets held in the United States, banning travel to the United States, and denying Americans the right to do business with them.

In addition to Chen, also sanctioned were Zhu Hailun, former deputy party secretary and current deputy secretary of the Xinjiang People’s Congress regional legislative body; Wang Mingshan, director and secretary of the Communist Party Xinjiang Public Security Bureau; and former party secretary of the Bureau Huo Liujun.

“For far too long, Chinese  [CCP] officials have not been held accountable for committing atrocities that likely constitute crimes against humanity,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), sponsor of the legislation signed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement cited by Reuters.

Various international bodies have been warning for years about the delicate situation of believers under the CCP dictatorship.

“The United States calls upon the world to stand against the CCP’s acts against its own minority communities in Xinjiang, including mass arbitrary detention, forced labor, religious persecution, and forced birth control and sterilization,” a White House official quoted by Reuters said.

Concentration camp survivors describe experiencing torture, rape, and political indoctrination while in detention. Uighurs also report that they were pressured to suppress their native culture and language and forced to denounce their faith and swear allegiance to the CCP.

The CCP has used the excuse of possible “extremist threats” to justify its strict surveillance of Uighurs and other minority Muslim groups in the Xinjiang region.

In Xinjiang, Falun Dafa practitioners, a ancient Chinese spiritual discipline, and the Uighur community are the most persecuted groups.

A Forbes report echoes a June 2019 ruling by China Court, a UK-based independent body chaired by renowned human rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice.

The court concluded that the forced removal of organs has been taking place for years throughout China on a significant scale and that the greatest victims have been precisely the believers, especially those who practice Falun Dafa.