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China to oppose any US move against its officials over Xinjiang issue

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Beijing, Sep 12 : China said on Wednesday that it would resolutely oppose any US move to impose sanctions against its officials and companies to punish Beijing for the alleged human rights violations against Uygur Muslims in the volatile Xinjiang province.

"China consistently resolutely opposes the United States using Xinjiang-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told the media here.

His comments came after US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that "there are credible reports out there that many, many thousands have been detained in detention centres since April 2017, and the numbers are fairly significant from what we can tell so far".

"We're deeply troubled by the worsening crackdown, not just on Uygurs, Kazakhs, other Muslims in that region of China," Nauert told a news briefing in Washington on Tuesday.

She declined to confirm whether sanctions were being contemplated against Chinese officials.

"We have a lot of tools at our disposal," she said.

Towards the end of the last month, a group of US lawmakers asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose sanctions on seven Chinese officials, including Chen Quanguo, the Communist party chief in Xinjiang, saying he had overseen the crackdown.

Chen is a Politburo member of the ruling Communist Party of China.

Geng said the Chinese government protects people's religious freedom and all ethnic groups are entitled for religious freedom.

"If the relevant report is true we urge the relevant party to respect the facts, abandon prejudices and stop taking actions that may harms the China-US mutual trust and cooperation," Geng said.

China is currently carrying out a massive crackdown against the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) in the volatile Xinjiang province where Uygurs Muslims - who formed majority there - were restive over the increasing settlements of Han community in the region.

The reported US move against China over Xinjiang, if materialised, will be the first by the Trump administration against the Communist country over the alleged human rights violations.

The US officials are also seeking to limit American sales of surveillance technology that Chinese security agencies and companies are using to monitor Uygurs throughout northwest China, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

The US followed a report by UN Human Rights panel that China has detained over a million Uygur Muslims in re-education camps also called indoctrination camps.

Last month, the UN's Geneva-based Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was alarmed by "numerous reports of ethnic Uygurs and other Muslim minorities" being detained in Xinjiang region and called for their immediate release.

Estimates about them "range from tens of thousands to upwards of a million."

UN Human Rights High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet this week said the Chinese government's arbitrary detention of Muslims is worrying and China should allow UN monitors into Xinjiang.

Asked for his comment, Geng said Tuesday that "I want to add that the UN Human Rights High Commissioner and her office should abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, respect China's sovereignty, fairly and objectively fulfil its duties, and not listen to and believe one-sided information."

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