U.S. Sanctions China, Myanmar, North Korea Over Surveillance, Human Rights Abuses

The U.S. has imposed new financial sanctions and other restrictions on several people and entities across China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh in response to government surveillance and human rights abuses.

The new sanctions, announced on International Human Rights Day by the Treasury Department, are meant to place barriers in the global financial system for the people and bodies targeted in the measures.

"On International Human Rights Day, Treasury is using its tools to expose and hold accountable perpetrators of serious human rights abuse," Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said while making the announcement.

Shohrat Zakir and Erken Tuniyaz, two Chinese government officials connected to the repression and forced assimilation of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in the Xinjiang region, were prohibited by the sanctions from traveling to the U.S. Zakir is the former chairman and Tuniya is the current presider over the campaign that has seen more than 1 million people imprisoned, forced to work and live under brutal conditions.

Several entities and officials across North Korea and Russia are also subject to the sanctions. Those targeted were involved in the use of North Korean workers overseas in often abusive conditions to produce hard currency.

The U.S. also announced this week that it would be carrying out a diplomatic protest of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to protest the country's alleged human rights abuses. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the boycott on Monday.

"U.S. diplomatic or official representation would treat these Games as business as usual in the face of the PRC's [People's Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang," she said. "We simply can't do that."

Deputy Treasury Secretary
Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo announced new financial sanctions and other restrictions on Friday against China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh. Above, Adeyemo appears before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing to be deputy secretary of the treasury on February 23, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Greg Nash/Pool via AP

Treasury imposed investment restrictions on Chinese firm SenseTime Group Ltd., which is involved with the development of facial recognition programs that can determine a person's ethnicity and has been used as part of the surveillance campaign against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.

This latest batch of sanctions also includes actions on officials in Bangladesh who are involved with the country's anti-drug Rapid Action Battalion, a task force founded in 2004 that has been implicated in more than 600 disappearances and nearly 600 extrajudicial killings, with evidence suggesting they have targeted opposition party members, journalists and human rights activists, Treasury said.

Actions against four officials in Myanmar and several entities are the latest in a series of U.S. sanctions since the military overthrew the democratically elected government on February 1, followed by a violent crackdown on opposition in the months since.

The situation in Myanmar is among the issues Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to address next week when he meets with officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Olympics Protest
The U.S. has imposed new financial sanctions and other restrictions on several people and entities across China, Myanmar, North Korea and Bangladesh in response to government surveillance and human rights abuses. Above, human right groups gather on International Human Rights Day to boycott the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 in front of the Bank of China building in Taipei, Taiwan, on December 10, 2021. Chiang Ying-ying)/AP Photo