Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday that the U.S. will implement visa restrictions on Chinese officials believed to participate in the repression of the Uighur, Kazakh and other Muslim minorities.
“China must end its draconian surveillance and repression, release all those arbitrarily detained, and cease its coercion of Chinese Muslims abroad,” Pompeo wrote on Twitter.
The news comes as Chinese officials are scheduled to hold high-level trade talks in Washington later this week amid a series of conflicts between the Chinese government and American organizations. Those talks were already overshadowed by a U.S. decision to place Chinese firms it believed were complicit in the repression of Uighurs on an export blacklist on Monday.
Last week, the manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong-Kong pro-democracy protesters. The Chinese Basketball Association promptly suspended all cooperation with the Rockets, and Morey retracted his tweet, saying that he didn’t mean to offend Chinese supporters and adding that he’s “had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
Morey and other NBA officials were widely criticized for apologetic statements intended to assuage Chinese anger. The comedy series South Park subsequently aired an episode mocking Chinese censorship, after which China removed all episodes of the TV show from television and streaming services within the country.
On Wednesday it was reported that fans of the Philadelphia 76ers were ejected from a preseason game with a Chinese team after the fans held up signs saying “Free Hong Kong.” Security at the arena reportedly told the fans to avoid making political statements.
China also criticized Apple on Wednesday after the company approved an app that allows protesters to track police. The app represents concentrations of police with the emoji of a dog, an insult widely hurled at police by protesters in Hong Kong.