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03/23/2021 China (International Christian Concern) – After months of strong rhetoric on human rights violations in China, the Biden administration on Monday announced a series of sanctions on senior Chinese officials responsible for serious violations of the right to freedom of religion. The announcement was coordinated with the governments of the European Union, Canada, and Britain, each of which imposed their own sanctions on the same officials.

An official US State Department press release announcing the sanctions stated that they were issued “in response to serious human rights abuse against members of ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang.”

China responded quickly with sanctions of its own, including on a large list of European officials and on German human rights researcher Adrian Zens.

In addition to highlighting the issue of persecution in China, the US sanctions point to a new era of coordinated international pressure on China under the Biden administration. The sanctions come on the heels of several weeks of meetings between the United States and its allies in Asia, including a reconvening of the Quad—a coalition made up of the United States, India, Japan, and Australia—and Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s tour of Japan and South Korea just last week.

In comments, Blinken has indicated that he wants to coordinate regional responses to China’s aggression rather than act unilaterally. Monday’s sanctions suggest that he is serious in this endeavor and could attempt larger-scale actions in the future.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom applauded the coordinated sanctions as an appropriate response to the atrocities being committed by the Chinese government. “The atrocities that the CCP has committed, and continues to commit, are an affront to humanity as well as to universal values and international law to which China has agreed,” said Nury Turkel, a member of the Commission, in a public statement.

China has a long history of repressing religious expression. Over the last several decades, it is known to have forced abortions on its citizens, sterilized women without their consent, and murdered religious minorities to sell their organs on the black market. Christian home churches are an attempt to escape government scrutiny, but even they are often raided and their members arrested on charges of working against the interests of the state.

The international community has a vested interest in ensuring that human rights, including the right to religious freedom, are respected in every country. No government should be allowed to trample the rights of its citizens with impunity, and when a government does not allow its people to speak up it is the rest of the world’s responsibility to speak up for them.

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: press@persecution.org.