U.S. issues slew of sanctions ahead of Human Rights Day

Chinese fisheries operators, Tibet’s police chief and North Korean security forces are among those targeted.
Alex Willemyns for RFA
2022.12.09
Washington
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U.S. issues slew of sanctions ahead of Human Rights Day Chinese fishing boats are seen in this file photo. The United States has targeted entities tied to China’s illegal fishing industry.
Associated Press

A day ahead of International Human Rights Day, the United States on Friday issued sanctions against dozens of entities accused of rights abuses, including some linked to China’s illegal fishing industry, Tibet’s chief of police and a North Korean security agency.

The Global Magnitsky Act sanctions issued by the Treasury Department block those named from using the U.S. financial system and bans American citizens from doing business with them. 

The list includes the Nasdaq-listed Pingtan Marine Enterprise Ltd. as well as Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., Chinese citizens Li Zhenyu and Xinrong Zhuo, and 157 fishing vessels bearing the flag of the People’s Republic of China that the Treasury Department says are linked to illegal fishing operations that also used forced labor onboard.

A statement issued by the Treasury Department said boats controlled by the Dalian, for instance, both violated fisheries regulations and took part in human rights abuses including assault and overwork.

“While the LONG XING 629 was licensed to catch tuna during its voyage, it also was reportedly engaged in illegal shark finning, taking over 700 kg of fins, including from endangered sharks,” it said.

“After 13 months without a port visit, with average workdays lasting 18 hours and living off expired food and brown desalinated seawater, five crewmembers had died,” it added, explaining that the boats were refueled at sea. “The bodies of three crewmembers who died at sea were dumped into the ocean rather than repatriated home.”

Pingtan, the statement said, operated nearly 100 vessels with a crew of nearly 2,000 people who suffered similar rights abuses while shipping protected shark carcasses through protected fishing zones. 

‘China is a responsible fishing country’

At a press conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said she was not aware of the specific case but opposed U.S. sanctions against Chinese fishing companies. 

“China strongly opposes interference in other countries’ internal affairs under the pretext of human rights. The U.S. is in no position to impose unwarranted sanctions on other countries or act as a ‘world policeman,’” Mao said, accusing the United States of allowing the operation of vessels for longer than fisheries regulations allow.

“As for the issue of illegal fishing, let me say that China is a responsible fishing country. We have always worked with other members of the international community to crack down on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” she said. “Pointing fingers at others while turning a blind eye to its own violations is blatant double standards.”

Tibet

Separate sanctions issued by the Treasury Department also targeted Chinese officials involved in human rights abuses in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, including former provincial party secretary Wu Yingjie and Tibetan Public Security Bureau chief Zhang Hongbo.

The Treasury Department accuses both of directing rights violations by leading the government’s “stability policies” in the region. Wu, for instance, was head of the provincial party apparatus between 2016 and 2021, while Zhang has headed the security bureau since 2018.

ENG_PAC_US_sanctions_12092022.2.jpg
The U.S. Treasury Department targeted Wu Yingjie, former provincial party secretary of China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region [seen in this file photo], for directing rights violations by leading the government’s “stability policies” in the region. (AFP)

“The implementation of these stability policies involved serious human rights abuse, including extrajudicial killings, physical abuse, arbitrary arrests, and mass detentions in [Tibet]. Additional abuses during Wu’s tenure include forced sterilization, coerced abortion, restrictions on religious and political freedoms, and the torture of prisoners,” it said.

It accuses Zhang of “torture, physical abuse, and killings of prisoners, which included those arrested on religious and political grounds.”

North Korea

Also sanctioned was North Korea’s Ministry of State Security Border Guard General Bureau, which is responsible for the country’s borders with China and Russia, and uses “land mines and shoot-on-sight orders” to prevent North Koreans attempting to flee abroad.

The sanctions require all companies doing business with those named to notify the U.S. government and cease “all transactions” with them.

“As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons described above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported” to the Office of Foreign Assets Control, Treasury said.

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