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China vows to hit US with ‘reciprocal measures’ after Xinjiang sanctions

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China said Friday it will impose tit-for-tat measures on US institutions and individuals who "behave badly" on Xinjiang-related issues after Washington slapped sanctions on Chinese officials over a crackdown on Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in the region.

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The Chinese response came after the US announced visa bans and an assets freeze on three officials, including Chen Quanquo, the Chinese Communist Party chief in Xinjiang and architect of Beijing's hardline policies against restive minorities.

"The US actions seriously interfere in China's internal affairs, seriously violate the basic norms of international relations, and seriously damage China-US relations," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a briefing.

"In response to the wrong actions of the US, China has decided to impose reciprocal measures against the relevant US institutions and individuals who behave badly on Xinjiang-related issues," Zhao said without providing details about the sanctions.

Witnesses and human rights groups say that China has rounded up more than one million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang in a vast brainwashing campaign aimed at forcibly homogenising minorities into the country's Han majority.

China counters that the facilities are benign vocational education centres where "students" learn Mandarin and job skills in an effort to eradicate extremism following a spate of deadly violence.

The US sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows Washington to target human rights violators worldwide by freezing any US assets, banning US travel and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

Sanctions 'no joke'

The highly anticipated action followed months of criticism of China over its handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak and its tightening grip on Hong Kong.

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