U.S. Sanctions Chinese Official as It Decries Rights Violations

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The Biden administration announced sanctions on a Chinese official over human rights violations, including the arbitrary detention of a Falun Gong practitioner, as it decried the country’s persecution of religious groups from Tibet to Xinjiang.

The State Department slapped visa restrictions on Yu Hui, a former official in the Chengdu region, as well as his family, over persecution of the sect, which Beijing considers a cult. The designation was announced Wednesday, just as the department released its annual report on the state of religious freedom around the world.

The report detailed what the U.S. said were widespread abuses in China’s Xinjiang region, which a U.S. official said had been turned into an “open-air prison” designed to persecute Uyghurs and other minority Muslims.

“It is absolutely clear what horrors are taking place in Xinjiang,” said Daniel Nadel, the senior official in the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. “We see quite clearly what it is -- what it is is an effort to erase a people, a history, a culture.”

China pushes back against criticism of its policies in Xinjiang as interference in domestic affairs. Beijing says it is fighting terrorism while providing economic opportunities to adults and education to children in the western region.

“The so-called report ignores facts and is full of ideological bias,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a regular press briefing Thursday in Beijing. “It slanders China’s religious policies and spreads false information on issues involving Xinjiang.”

The nation’s people enjoy full freedom of religious beliefs, she said, adding China opposed the U.S. applying sanctions to its nationals.

Separately, the United Nations held an event Wednesday to draw attention to the plight of the Uyghurs. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the U.S. would continue to speak out on the issue, which she called a “genocide.”

“We will keep standing up and speaking out until China’s government stops its crimes against humanity and the genocide of Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “And we will keep working in concert with our allies and our partners until China’s government respects the universal human rights of all its people.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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