U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said American companies are “becoming aware” of human rights abuses in the Chinese province of Xinjiang as he reiterated his call for them to reconsider doing business there.
During an interview with Fox News on August 2, he also said that the United States would soon take action against Chinese software companies and warned a Chinese trade deal with Iran would “destabilize” the Middle East.
Pompeo told Fox that Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), which was sanctioned on July 31 by the Treasury Department, had “deep connectivity” to Western businesses, including U.S. companies. Pompeo said XPCC was involved in cotton production.
“I don’t think companies -- some brand names here in America -- want to be connected to what is taking place there,” he told Fox.
The action freezes any U.S. assets of the company and officials, and prohibits Americans from doing business with them. American clothing brands import significant amounts of cotton from China.
Pompeo accused the Chinese Communist Party of doing “terrible, terrible things” to the Uyghurs, the Muslim Turkic ethnic group living in Xinjiang, including carrying out sterilizations and forced abortions.
He added that American companies are “starting to become more aware” of what is happening in Xinjiang and of the “challenges this presents to their brand.”
“I think all across the world for an awful long time we didn't recognize the threats posed to freedom, the authoritarian nature of the regime there, and so we let things go on that we shouldn't,” he said.
The U.S. secretary of state said the latest rounds of sanctions has put Chinese firms operating in Xinjiang “on notice” that they must change their behavior.
Pompeo’s comments come amid a deterioration of relations between the United States and China over a host of issues -- from human rights abuses, spying, and intellectual property theft to Beijing's response to the coronavirus outbreak.
He told Fox News that President Donald Trump will “take action in the coming days” on Chinese software companies that are feeding data directly to the Beijing government, posing a risk to U.S. national security.
He gave no further details.
Trump said on July 31 that he would soon issue an order for the popular social-media platform TikTok to be banned in the United States.
Turning to Iran, Pompeo denounced reports that Beijing and Tehran are close to signing a $400 billion economic and security deal.
He said United States sanctions against Iran would be applied to Chinese state firms, warning that Tehran’s access to money and weapons “only compounds” risks for the region.
“I think countries in the Middle East should see this for what it is. China’s entry into Iran will destabilize the Middle East,” he said.