China has barred the entry of four members of a US panel on religious freedom in retaliation against America sanctioning the Asian country’s own officials earlier this month.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Tuesday said members of the US government’s Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) would not be allowed to enter mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.
He added that any assets they had in the country would also be frozen, while forbidding China’s citizens from dealing with them.
The four members of the USCIRF were identified as chairwoman Nadine Maenza, vice chairman Nury Turkel, and the panel’s commissioners Anurima Bhargava and James W Carr.
The USCIRF was set up in 1998 and is a US federal government entity responsible for evaluating and suggesting policies for countries where religious freedom is deemed to be in danger.
On 10 December, the US treasury announced sanction against two officials accusing them of being involved in repression Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in China’s Xinjiang region.
China has denied abusing Uyghurs or unlawfully holding them in detention centres despite many human rights groups accusing Beijing of carrying out a genocide.
The treasury targeted Shohrat Zakir, who served as the chairman of the region’s government from 2018 until early this year, as well as Erkin Tuniyaz, who replaced Mr Zakir as chair and who had earlier served as the deputy chairman.
Threatening to retaliate against the US sanctions, Mr Zhao said: “The United States should withdraw the so-called sanctions and stop interfering in Xinjiang’s affairs and China’s internal affairs.”
“China will make further responses in accordance with the development of the situation,” he added.
Additional reporting from agencies