China Again Sanctioned by U.S. Over Human Rights Abuses, Harassment

The U.S. State Department announced Monday a round of sanctions against Chinese officials involved in the repression of religious and ethnic minority groups.

The measures target those "believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, policies or actions aimed at repressing ethnic and religious minority groups, including those who seek safety abroad, and U.S. citizens, who speak out on behalf of these vulnerable populations," according to a department statement.

The move comes as accusations against China for human rights abuses continue to mount. Late last year, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's genocide prevention center released a report detailing human rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim minority group in China's Xinjiang province using first-hand testimony and other information provided by dissidents. The report said the Chinese government had put the Uyghurs through forced sterilization, torture, enslavement and more.

This is not the first time China has been sanctioned by the U.S. for human rights issues. In late 2019 through 2020, Chinese officials were sanctioned due to human rights abuses in Hong Kong, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. By the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the allegations of genocide and other human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang caused more rounds of sanctions against China.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the sanctioned individuals "perpetrators of human rights abuses" in a tweeted statement.

"The United States has taken action to impose visa restrictions on PRC officials for attempting to intimidate, harass, and repress dissidents and human rights defenders inside and outside of China," he wrote.

The sanctions put restrictions on the officials' visas, the State Department's statement said. They target officials believed to be involved in the repression of individuals such as "religious and spiritual practitioners," members of ethnic minority groups, journalists, human rights activists, peaceful protesters and more.

The statement also said China had attempted to "silence" Uyghur Americans and other Uyghurs working with the U.S. by "denying exit permission to their family members in China."

The genocide prevention center's report also said Uyghurs have undergone atrocities such as sexual violence, forced labor, prohibitions on religious and cultural expression, and destruction of cultural and religious property.

Many criticized the hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing last month, with activists saying the spectacle of the games distracted from the crimes against humanity happening in Xinjiang.

"We call on the PRC government to end its ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, repressive policies in Tibet, crackdown on fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, and human rights violations and abuses, including violations of religious freedom, elsewhere in the country," the State Department's statement said.

Update 03/21/22 5:40 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

U.S. Sanctions China for Human Rights Abuses
The U.S. has sanctioned China over its treatment of religious minorities. Above, a Uyghur family prays at the grave of a loved one on September 12, 2016, at a local shrine and cemetery in Turpan County, China. Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images