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03/23/2022 China (International Christian Concern) – The US government has announced incoming sanctions for Chinese officials responsible for the persecution of Uyghur Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities.

The newly announced sanctions will impose new visa restrictions on Chinese officials involved in the repression of religious and ethnic minorities. The statement by the State Department announced the sanctions for what they described as “repressive acts against members of ethnic and religious minority groups and religious and spiritual practitioners inside and outside of China’s borders.

This is the latest step in the US response to China’s unyielding persecution of Uyghur Muslims in its western Xinjiang province, its repression of religious groups around the country, and the recent attempts to silence activists outside of Chinese borders. This comes as many western nations, including the US and the UK, have declared genocide in China, in part due to the tireless work of Uyghur activists who have shared stories of the gross atrocities occurring within China. Numerous reports of mass incarceration, torture, forced labor, and forced sterilization have come out of Xinjiang, as China seeks to suppress this ethnic and religious minority under the guise of anti-terrorism. However, China’s persecution of Uyghur Muslims falls directly in line with its system of widespread religious persecution, which it commits against Christians, Tibetans, Falun Gong, and many others.

Religious minorities in China continue to face significant harassment as they are regularly monitored and often arrested for diverging from the rigid Chinese rules for religious practice. For Christians, this means being a part of the state-sanctioned Christian church, the Tree Self Patriotic Movement, or the Catholic Patriotic Association. Both are well-regulated associations maintained by the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda arm, the United Front Work Department. Many Christians, who have operated outside of these institutions or have preached out of line with the directive to foster national unity, have been arbitrarily arrested on embellished violations – many are serving long sentences today, and others have forcibly disappeared.

While many have been concerned that the urgency around the human rights crisis in China has waned in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, these sanctions are a welcome move against Chinese officials, explicitly justified by their acts against religious and spiritual communities. The U.S. must continue to prioritize human rights as a pillar of our relationship with China, especially as their influence continues to permeate around the world.

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