US imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang human rights abuses

US imposes visa restrictions on Chinese officials over Xinjiang human rights abuses
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The Trump administration is imposing visa restrictions on Chinese officials who are connected to the detention of Muslims in Xinjiang province. 

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoForeign Relations Democrat calls on Iran to release other American prisoners Documentary groups challenge Trump administration's vetting of immigrants' social media Iran releases American graduate student in prisoner swap MORE on Tuesday announced visa bans on government leaders and Communist Party officials who are discovered to be associated with the detention of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.

The State Department told Bloomberg it cannot release the names being added to the list but that it is in the process of adding them. The officials' family members would also be restricted from traveling.

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A State Department spokesperson told The Hill the department is "committed to promoting accountability for those who commit human rights abuses around the world."

"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 the PRC to face an uncertain fate,” the spokesperson said.

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows the secretary of State to restrict visas to people who “would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.”

The visa restrictions came in connection with the Department of Commerce's blacklisting of several Chinese companies that use facial recognition technology reportedly to identify Muslim minorities in the country, announced Monday

“We’re showing that this administration is following through,” Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia David Stilwell said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s consistent, it’s deliberate and the goal is to get them to reconsider this terrible policy they have.”

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A State Department official also told Bloomberg that allies in Europe and the Muslim world were pushed to impose similar bans.

Following Monday's announcement of the blacklisting, China responded through Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, telling the U.S. to "stop interfering in China's internal affairs." 

These restrictions come as U.S.-China relations remain tense while the two countries work to negotiate a trade deal. Talks are scheduled to continue in Washington this week.

Officials told Bloomberg the blacklisting of companies and visa bans are unrelated to the trade talks, but one State Department official said the U.S. thinks China will not show up to talks unless the U.S. appears serious.

Updated: 7:48 p.m.