Concerns Over Human Rights Abuses Result in New OFAC Sanctions on Chinese Officials in Xinjiang and the Burmese Military

3 min

Additional Chinese Government Officials Sanctioned in Connection with Serious Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang

On Monday, March 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in a coordinated action with Canada, Britain, and the European Union, imposed additional sanctions on certain Chinese officials in connection with human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). The OFAC action, taken pursuant to the Global Magnitsky sanctions program, which targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption, added Wang Junzheng, the Secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), and Chen Mingguo, Director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB), to OFAC's "Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List" (SDN List).

OFAC noted that the Chinese officials were added to the SDN list "[d]ue to their roles in the XPCC and XPSB, respectively" and their resulting connection "to serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang," including "arbitrary detention and severe physical abuse." Press Release, U.S. Department of Treasury, Treasury Sanctions Chinese Government Officials in Connection with Serious Human Rights Abuse in Xinjiang (Mar. 22, 2021). This action expands on the prior designations of XPCC, known to be a paramilitary organization in the XUAR and subordinate to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), on July 31, 2020 and XPSB on July 9, 2020, for their involvement in serious human rights abuses in the XUAR.

These new designations follow a contentious meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and top Chinese officials recently in Alaska, after which Secretary Blinken announced that the countries were "fundamentally at odds" regarding a number of issues, including China's actions in Xinjiang. With these sanctions, OFAC Director Andrea M. Gacki noted that "Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang" and that "Treasury is committed to promoting accountability for the Chinese government's human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention and torture, against Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities."

Sanctions Imposed on Individuals and Entities Connected to the Burmese Military

Also on March 22, 2021, OFAC imposed sanctions against two Burmese military leaders and two Burmese military divisions in response to the Burmese military's violent repression of pro-democracy protests. The OFAC action added Than Hlaing, Chief of the Burma Police Force and Deputy Home Affairs Minister , and Lieutenant General Aung Soe, a Burmese Bureau of Special Operations commander, to the SDN list. The action also designated the 33rd Light Infantry Division of the Burmese Army (33 LID) and the 77th Light Infantry Division of the Burmese Army (77 LID), for being responsible for or complicit in, or for having directly or indirectly engaged or attempted to engage in, actions or policies that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by people in Burma.

To understand whether these recent actions may impact your business, please reach out to Venable's International Trade Group for guidance.