The sanctions were announced on Jan. 20, the same day that President Joe Biden's inauguration into office took place. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson accused the U.S. officials of carrying out “a series of crazy moves” that “seriously interfered with China’s internal affairs” and “seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations.”
By now, Emily Horne, the spokesperson for Biden’s National Security Council, has said that the sanctions are “unproductive and cynical.”
Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), outgoing chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took to Twitter to say that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was “testing the Biden Admin’s resolve to continue a tougher, competitive approach towards China.”
“Together, Republicans & Democrats must show Beijing we will not be deterred from defending U.S. interests,” he said.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the leading Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said via Twitter that the sanctions were “a brazen & baseless attempt to silence & intimidate officials that hold the #CCP accountable for genocide & its takeover of Hong Kong.”
“The Biden admin must immediately make it clear that coercion will not be tolerated,” he added.
On Jan. 19, Pompeo said that the CCP’s oppression against Uyghurs and other majority-Muslim ethnic minorities constitutes genocide and are “crimes against humanity.”
Last year, the Trump administration took several steps to approach the CCP’s human rights abuses, including sanctioning six Chinese officials and a Chinese entity over their actions in Xinjiang, and one Chinese official for his responsibility in the oppression against the spiritual group Falun Gong. The administration also introduced visa limitations for Chinese officials deemed to have been involved in human rights violations.
In December, the administration also sanctioned 25 Hong Kong and Chinese officials, among them Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, for their engagement in the execution of Beijing’s draconian national security law, which punishes vaguely-defined crimes such as subversion and secession with a maximum sentence of life arrest.
At least four pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have since been indicted for breaking the new law, including Jimmy Lai, founder of the local newspaper Apple Daily, and former student activist Tony Chung.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), in an interview with Fox News, said the Chinese sanctions were not “geared so much against those [U.S.] officials, but a shot across the bow of Joe Biden’s national security team.”
Cotton called for a comment from the Biden administration and Congress, saying that the United States could not allow Beijing to continue its campaign of intimidation.