US congressmen have urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to use sanctions to bar human rights violators in China from entering the US or using the American financial system.

Congressional-Executive Commission on China Chairman Senator Marco Rubio and co-chair representative Chris Smith urged Tillerson to use the tools available in the Global Magnitsky Act and the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act.

“Timely designations and robust implementation of both laws is vital. National security waivers should be used sparingly, and the scope of government officials targeted should span from senior to working level to send a clear message to those who perpetrate these abuses that they can no longer hide behind the veil of anonymity,” they said.

liu xiaobo memorial
File photo: In-Media.

The Congressionally-mandated deadlines for announcing the use of the available tools is mid-December.

They urged the State Department to prioritise investigations of Chinese officials responsible for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo’s imprisonment, and his death owing to late-stage liver cancer in custody. Liu was denied medical care outside of China, despite his wishes.

“If the abuses he and his wife, Liu Xia, have endured are met with impunity, it will only embolden the Chinese government in its repression and brutality,” they said in their letter to Tillerson.

They also recommended sanctions against chinese officials responsible for activist Cao Shunli’s torture and death – including Fu Zhenghua, deputy minister of the Ministry of Public Security, and  Tao Jing, deputy head of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.

Cao Shunli died of organ failure in March 2014 at a Beijing hospital, after six months in detention. Requests from her family urging her release for medical treatment were denied.

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The congressmen submitted a list of more than 20 officials identified by Chinese rights lawyer Xie Yang who were involved in his torture. The alleged abuse included beatings, sleep deprivation, death threats, and denial of proper food, water, and medical care.

They also asked the US government to investigate officials in connection with the mistreatment of Christian pastor Zhang Shaojie, as well as officials in Xinjiang where restrictions on religious freedom have intensified.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.