China’s Ambassador to the U.S. has threatened retaliation if Washington sanctions Beijing over human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), drawing condemnation from observers who say officials responsible for the violations must be held to account for their actions.
Beginning in April 2017, Uyghurs accused of harboring “strong religious views” and “politically incorrect” ideas have been jailed or detained in political re-education camps throughout the XUAR, where members of the ethnic group have long complained of pervasive discrimination, religious repression, and cultural suppression under Chinese rule.
Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Chris Smith—chair and co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Committee (CECC)—have said they plan to introduce the Xinjiang Uygur Human Rights Act, which would “direct U.S. resources to address gross violations of universally recognized human rights, including the mass internment of over a million Uyghurs and other predominately Muslim ethnic minorities in China and the intimidation and threats faced by U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Ambassador Cui Tiankai told Reuters news agency that China is working to “re-educate” terrorists and should not be punished for what he suggested is a more humane approach to counter-terrorism.
“We are trying to re-educate most of them, trying to turn them into normal persons [who] can go back to normal life,” Cui said.
Cui warned that Beijing would retaliate in kind if any sanctions were placed on Chinese officials.
“If such actions are taken, we have to retaliate,” Cui said, without providing details about China’s possible response.