China’s Ministry of Commerce said Tuesday that it “strongly urges” the U.S. to stay clear of the country’s domestic issues, after the White House blacklisted a slew of Chinese companies due to alleged human rights violations against Muslim minorities in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang.
“We strongly urge the U.S. to immediately stop making irresponsible remarks on the issue of Xinjiang” and to “stop interfering” in “China’s internal affairs, and remove relevant Chinese entities from the list of entities as soon as possible,” a spokesperson from the ministry said Tuesday in a statement, according to a Google translation.
“China will also take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard China’s own interests,” the spokesperson said.
The comment came after tensions between the U.S. and China rose ahead of the highly anticipated trade talks this week. The U.S. on Monday banned 28 Chinese companies from doing business with American firms without being granted a U.S. government license due to human rights issues.
The Trump administration on Tuesday put visa restrictions on Chinese officials “who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, the detention and abuse” of Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang.
“The United States calls on the People’s Republic of China to immediately end its campaign of repression in Xinjiang, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease efforts to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China to face an uncertain fate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday in a statement.
Xinjiang has made headlines for its detention and “re-education” camps that hold an estimated 1.5 million Muslims, many of them for violating what Amnesty International describes as a “highly restrictive and discriminatory” law that China says is designed to combat extremism.
Markets were bracing for stiff retaliation as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said earlier Tuesday to “stay tuned” for China to fight back. Reports from China also said the Chinese delegation may cut short its planned stay in Washington and depart on Friday, dimming hopes for a trade deal.
The tempered optimism sparked a sell-off in the markets with the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanking as much as 300 points.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the Global Times followed by markets for insight on the trade war, said Tuesday that China now has “low expectation for real breakthrough.”
Global Times is a tabloid under the People’s Daily, which is the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China.