China announced “corresponding sanctions” against the United States on Monday after Washington penalised senior Chinese officials over the treatment of minority Uighur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang.
China’s move comes as relations between the world’s two biggest economic powerhouses have slumped over disagreements on issues including the coronavirus pandemic, trade, Huawei and a sweeping national security law imposed on Hong Kong.
The sanctions targeted Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, U.S. Representative Chris Smith, Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback and the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China.
Rubio and Cruz have both sponsored legislation that would punish China’s actions in Xinjiang. Smith has also been a vocal critic of China on issues ranging from Xinjiang to Hong Kong and the coronavirus.
All three are members of President Donald Trump’s Republican Party.
“The U.S. actions seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs, seriously violate the basic norms of international relations and seriously damage Sino-U.S. relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters.
“China will make further responses based on how the situation develops.”
Hua did not elaborate.
U.N. experts and activists say at least a million ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims are held in detention centres in Xinjiang. China describes them as training centres helping to stamp out terrorism and extremism and give people new skills.
The Congressional-Executive Commission on China monitors human rights and the development of the rule of law and submits an annual report to Trump and Congress.
Washington’s measures against Chinese officials, including the Communist Party secretary of Xinjiang, involve freezing U.S. assets, U.S. travel bans and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.