Among those targeted are senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, both outspoken critics of China. This comes amid China’s crackdown on Hong Kong and treatment of Muslims. All of which is something that has made the White House want to change its perception of Beijing.
Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, two Republicans on the powerful foreign relations committee, were among four Americans hit with unspecified sanctions yesterday.
The reason for the sanction was “for interfering in China’s internal affairs”.
The nature of the sanctions is unclear.
China is accused of detaining more than a million Uighurs and others in Xinjiang but China denies abuses in the far-western region.
Ted Cruz is a senator for Texas while Marco Rubio represents Florida.
The pair competed with Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
China also imposed sanctions on Republican congressman Chris Smith.
Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback.
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After three years of avoiding action on human rights against China as President Trump sought a favourable atmosphere for trade talks.
When Mr Trump signed the Uighurs Human Rights Policy Act, Washington decided to move beyond rhetorical condemnation.
The President’s Chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, has spoken of a “sea change” as he said the President was “not in a good mood” with China over COVID-19, Hong Kong and abuses against Uighurs.
Robert O’Brien, the national security adviser, writing in The Washington Post yesterday, said: “If the past century has shown us anything, it is that dangerous ideologies backed by powerful states rarely confine their malign conduct within their own borders.
“The United States will thus continue to shine the light of truth on Xinjiang — for the Uighurs and for us all.”
Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, announced a ban last week on US travel by Chen Quanguo, the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, and three other functionaries from the province.
Mr Pompeo said yesterday that the US was stepping up its opposition to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
He said: “The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire.”
“America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”