US sanctions over Xinjiang's Uygur internment camps are 'ready to go' except for Treasury hold-up due to trade war, sources say

By Nectar Gan and Owen Churchill / | June 21, 2019 11:57 AM SGT
The US government is poised to punish Chinese officials over the mass internment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, months after a previous round of discussions about sanctions was quashed at the cabinet level, according to a US official and two other individuals briefed on the matter.
A newly prepared sanctions package has garnered working-level consensus across several departments, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is said to have held up the action due to concern that it could disrupt trade negotiations, which have resumed in advance of the meeting next week between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Japan at the G20 conference.
Mnuchin " a moderate in an administration marked by its hard line in dealings with China " was reported to have impeded a move to consider similar sanctions in December, after Trump and Xi last met.
There is agreement across multiple agencies at the working level, sources said, on the need for and details of the sanctions, which would be enacted under the Global Magnitsky Act, an Obama-era tool that freezes the US-based assets and restricts travel of foreign individuals deemed responsible for human rights abuses.
That account was confirmed by people recently briefed by the government, including Omer Kanat of the Uygur Human Rights Project.
"The sanction is coming," Kanat, the Washington-based organisation's director cited State Department officials as saying at a meeting earlier this month. "Many government agencies are involved, they are in contact, they are in agreement on sanctions."
In preparation for the sanctions, the State Department approached Uygur advocacy groups in May and asked them to submit evidence to support the application of the Global Magnitsky Act against Chinese officials responsible for the human rights crisis in Xinjiang, according to a person with knowledge of the request.
Calls for sanctions against Chinese officials have proliferated since last year, amid a growing global outcry over Beijing's internment and political indoctrination of an estimated one million or more ethnic Uygurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in China's far western region of Xinjiang.
Beijing has bristled at any mention of US action over...