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China, Russia condemn new US sanctions against companies

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The US Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. (File photo)

China and Russia have vigorously denounced new sanctions imposed by the United States against dozens of their companies and entities.

The US on Friday announced sanctions against 23 Chinese companies and other entities "for their involvement in, or risk of becoming involved in, activities contrary to interests of United States.”

Fourteen companies were blacklisted over accusations of involvement role in alleged human rights abuses in the far-west Xinjiang region, five for their ties to China’s military, and another four for doing business with other firms that had already been sanctioned by the US.

The US also imposed sanctions on six individuals and legal entities from Russia on Friday, drawing a rebuke from Moscow. 

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce on Sunday demanded that Washington reverse the move or face retaliatory measures.

"This is an unjustified pressure against Chinese companies and a serious violation of economic and trade rules. China decisively objects to this," the ministry said in a statement. "We will take the necessary steps to vigorously defend our legitimate rights and interests," it added.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also said earlier that Beijing “will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.”

He said that Washington suppresses Chinese companies and industries under the pretext of human rights.

This is not the first time Washington has targeted Chinese firms over human rights allegations in the western province of Xinjiang.

In 2019, the administration of former president Donald Trump added some of China’s top artificial intelligence startups to its economic blacklist over what it claimed were “human rights” abuses against Muslim minorities.

Beijing denies allegations by the West that Uighur Muslims have been forced into camps in Xinjiang, saying it is addressing underdevelopment and lack of jobs in the area. 

Chinese officials have characterized the camps as “vocational education and employment training centers” for “criminals involved in minor offenses.”

'US sanctions against Russian entities confrontational'

Announcing the new sanctions against Russian entities, the US accused the companies of attempting “to procure items, including US-origin items, for activities contrary to the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States."

Russia’s Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov denounced the move as another “confrontational step by Washington.”

“This is another confrontational step as part of Washington's deliberate efforts to restrict the access of domestic enterprises to high-precision technologies from abroad,” Antonov said in a statement on Friday.

He said Washington’s move “fundamentally contrasts with the statements of the United States authorities, including during the summit in Geneva, about the need to normalize the entire range of bilateral relations.”

Antonov was referring to the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Joe Biden, held last month when both sides acknowledged that bilateral relations were at rock bottom.

No major breakthrough was made in the long list of issues between the two rivals, but Biden and Putin agreed to hold further talks on arms control and to return their respective ambassadors to their posts.

Diplomatic relations between the US and Russia deteriorated in March, when Biden branded Putin a “killer,” prompting a tit-for-tat recalling of ambassadors.

More recently, tensions escalated over the Russian-speaking Donbass region of Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops and pro-Russia forces have been fighting since 2014.

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