The Trump administration is weighing sanctions against Chinese officials and companies in response to the country’s treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups, The New York Times reported Monday.
The news outlet citied current and former officials who said the administration has been discussing sanctions over the human rights issue for months at the White House, Treasury Department and State Department.
In addition to economic sanctions, the U.S. is also considering a limit on sales of American surveillance technology used by Chinese agencies to monitor Uighurs, The New York Times reported.
The potential move comes after lawmakers in late August sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging sanctions on multiple Chinese officials.
The penalties, if implemented, would mark the first time the Trump administration has acted against China on the basis of human rights violations, according to the newspaper.
A United Nations panel said last month that it had credible reports that as many as 2 million Uighurs were being detained by the Chinese government in re-education camps in western Xinjiang, where they were forced to pledge loyalty to the Communist Party.
A senior Chinese official refuted the report, telling the U.N. panel on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that it was “completely untrue” and disputing the reasoning behind the camps.
The talk of sanctions come at a time of already heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.
The two countries have engaged in an escalating trade dispute, levying billions of dollars of tariffs against one another. President Trump pledged on Friday that he is prepared to slap $267 billion in tariffs on Chinese products, in addition to the $200 billion he has already promised.
Trump has also voiced frustration in recent months over China’s relationship with North Korea. The president has suggested that China is interfering with U.S. efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.