China announced Monday it is issuing sanctions against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and three other U.S. officials for "interfering in China's internal affairs," a move that drew a dismissive reply from Cruz.
The announcement came days after the United States issued sanctions against three Chinese officials for Beijing's human rights abuses against ethnic minority groups in the Xinjiang region. Details on the sanctions against Cruz have not been disclosed.
Cruz, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a Monday statement that he does not plan on traveling to the "authoritarian regime that covered up the coronavirus pandemic and endangered millions of lives worldwide."
"The Chinese Communist Party is terrified and lashing out," Cruz's statement reads. "They forced over one million Uighurs into concentration camps and engaged in ethnic cleansing, including horrific forced abortions and sterilizations. These are egregious human rights atrocities that cannot be tolerated."
The U.S. officials being targeted are Sam Brownback, the Trump administration's ambassador for international religious freedom, and three members of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China: Cruz; U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida; and U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey.
On Thursday, the Trump administration banned three Chinese Communist Party senior officials and their family members from entering the U.S. The Chinese officials being sanctioned allegedly targeted Uighur Muslims, a population indigenous to Xinjiang, and members of other ethnic and religious minorities in the region, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
"Xinjiang affairs are China's internal affairs, and the U.S. has no right to interfere in them," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters in Beijing, according to The Washington Post. "We urge the United States to immediately withdraw its wrong decision."
Cruz applauded the Trump administration's actions Friday in a tweet saying it was a much-needed move.
"We must continue to hold Chinese government officials accountable for their egregious human rights atrocities against the Uighurs & other minorities," Cruz tweeted.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the number of U.S. officials sanctioned by China. It's four, not five.