U.S. Restricts Visas for Chinese Officials Responsible for Xinjiang Repression

On October 8, the U.S. State Department announced visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials responsible for, or complicit in, repression of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region.

The announcement does not cite to any legal authority for this action, but the Immigration and Nationality Act does make inadmissible people whose entry would have “potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.” And the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act more specifically makes inadmissible any foreign national responsible for gross violations of human rights.

State Department officials said U.S. law prevents them from announcing who is on the new visa-restriction list, though they said names were already being added. Visa records are generally confidential under U.S. law, but an exception is made under the Magnitsky Act, allowing publication of such names.

The visa restrictions also follow the Commerce Department‘s export restrictions this week on 28 Chinese companies, government offices and security bureaus over their alleged role in facilitating human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The complete text of the press statement from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo follows:

The Chinese government has instituted a highly repressive campaign against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang) that includes mass detentions in internment camps; pervasive, high-tech surveillance; draconian controls on expressions of cultural and religious identities; and coercion of individuals to return from abroad to an often perilous fate in China.  Today, I am announcing:

  • Visa restrictions on Chinese government and Communist Party officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention or abuse of Uighurs, Kazakhs, or other members of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang, China.  Family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions.
  • These visa restrictions complement yesterday’s announcement by the Department of Commerce regarding the imposition of export restrictions on U.S. products exported to 28 entities, including elements of the Public Security Bureau and commercial companies in Xinjiang, involved in China’s campaign of surveillance, detention, and repression.

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 China to face an uncertain fate.  The protection of human rights is of fundamental importance, and all countries must respect their human rights obligations and commitments.  The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these abuses.

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