China vows to shield firms from the United States' sanctions over restive Xinjiang region

China vows to shield firms from US sanctions over restive Xinjiang region
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian speaks at the daily media briefing in Beijing on April 8, 2020. (Photo by AFP)


Beijing has pledged to safeguard the Chinese firms and institutions that have been recently sanctioned by the United States over alleged human rights violations against the Uighur Muslim minority in the restive western region of Xinjiang.

    "China will take all necessary measures to protect the legal rights and interests of Chinese companies," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Monday.

On Friday, the US Commerce Department announced that it has added 33 Chinese firms and institutions to an economic blacklist, citing national security concerns and Beijing's maltreatment of its Uighur Muslim minority.

The blacklisted companies focus on artificial intelligence and 5G communication networks.

The commerce department said in a statement that nine companies were included in the list for their alleged complicity in human rights violations and abuses, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

The blacklisted companies will be subject to sanctions, which restrict their access to American technology and the purchase of US-related goods, the department added.
China said the United States needed to reverse the decision, saying the Commerce Department had "stretched the concept of national security" to "meddle in China's affairs and harm China's interests."

The latest US sanctions follow a similar measure last October when the Commerce Department added 28 Chinese public bureaus and companies -- including a video surveillance company—to a US trade blacklist over the treatment of Uighurs.

Resource-rich and strategically located on the borders of Central Asia, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is key to China’s growing energy needs.

The community, which makes up about 45 percent of the region’s population, has long accused Beijing of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

Last year, a UN human rights panel alleged that up to two million Uighurs had been forced into “political camps for indoctrination” in the autonomous region, which is home to about 10 million Uighurs.
China rejects claims of mistreating Uighurs, saying it has been taking anti-terrorism measures against separatists in the region who are seeking to join Takfiri outfits such as al-Qaeda.

Beijing describes the camps in Xinjiang as “vocational education and employment training centers,” which are part of its efforts to tackle underdevelopment and a lack of employment in the area.

The development is the latest escalation in a row between the United States and China, which has intensified this year over the coronavirus pandemic.

More recently, the world’s two largest economies have also clashed over the Hong Kong pro-independence movement and US support for Taiwan, which China claims full sovereignty over it.



Air China planes are seen on the tarmac at Beijing Capital Airport in on March 13, 2020. (Photo by AFP)
Air China planes are seen on the tarmac at Beijing Capital Airport in on March 13, 2020. (Photo by AFP)


Beijing says it opposes any American restrictions against Chinese airlines after Washington urged Chinese carriers to provide their flight details.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday said Beijing had “noticed that the relevant departments of the US government require Chinese airlines to provide flight plans.”

The comments came after the US Transportation Department demanded that Chinese carriers file their schedules and other flight details by May 27, suggesting that Washington plans to impose certain restrictions on flights from China.

    “China opposes any possible interference and restrictions imposed by the US on regular passenger flights operated by Chinese airlines,” said the official.

He added that the flight restrictions earlier imposed by Beijing treated all airlines equally as part of efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Late in March, China suspended practically all entry to the country by foreigners and halted almost all international passenger flights.

The US, however, accused China of blocking American flights and making it impossible for US airlines to resume service to the Asian country.

In response to the restrictions, the US Transportation Department delayed a few Chinese charter flights earlier this week, accusing them of not complying with notice requirements.

In an order posted on a US government website and seen by Reuters, the department warned that it could find Chinese flights “contrary to applicable law or adversely affect the public interest.”

The department said it has “protested this situation to the Chinese authorities, describing it as “critical.”

It also noted that Delta Air Lines and United Airlines want to resume flights to China in June.

Late in January, Washington barred from entry most non-US citizens who had been in China within the previous 14 days.

Following the ban, major US carriers decided to halt all passenger flights to China.

Delta and United, which are flying cargo flights to China, had requested approval for a daily flight to Shanghai Pudong airport.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington have further increased since the US started blaming China for the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump keeps referring to the new coronavirus that was first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December last year as “the Chinese virus.”

Beijing has hit back by suggesting that the US military brought the virus to Wuhan and initiated the outbreak.


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