WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Chinese company XPCC and two officials linked to the company “for their links to serious human rights violations against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.”

Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs in the vast semi-autonomous territory of western China is one of the many areas of tension in Sino-American relations, with Hong Kong, trade, Chinese claims in the China Sea of South, or the Huawei equipment supplier.

In a statement, the US Treasury Department announced the blacklisting of XPCC (Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps), the former Communist Party representative in the company, Sun Jinlong, and the current Deputy CPC Secretary and XPCC Director Peng Jiarui.

The US Treasury says it has identified the company as a paramilitary organization subordinate to the CCP and accuses it of “strengthening control over the Xinjiang region.”

The American decision involves the freezing of all assets available to this entity or individuals in the United States and the prohibition of any transaction between them and Americans.

Established in 1954, the “Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps” was initially made up of demobilized soldiers. Civilians later joined and it now has 3.11 million members, or more than 12% of Xinjiang’s population. Most of them belong to the Han ethnic group, in an area that is home to the Uyghur Muslim minority.

The American administration regularly denounces the human rights abuses of which the Uyghurs are victims. On July 9, Washington sanctioned four Chinese officials, including Chen Quanguo, secretary of the Communist Party in Xinjiang, and the Public Security Bureau of this autonomous territory in northwestern China.

China denies any mistreatment of the Uyghur minority.

(Steve Holland and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, with Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; French version Jean-Stéphane Brosse, edited by Henri-Pierre André)