Eye for an eye: China bans US religious leader as payback for sanction over Falun Gong detention

·2-min read

A US religious official was sanctioned by China on Wednesday for “promoting cults” in retaliation for an earlier United States sanction on a Chinese official over religious freedom.

Johnnie Moore, a US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commissioner, and his family members will be denied entry to the Chinese mainland as well as Hong Kong and Macau, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press conference on Wednesday

The decision was “in response to the US side’s blatant efforts to promote heretical religions and impose unilateral sanctions on Chinese personnel based on lies and false information”, Zhao said.

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Moore, an evangelical leader and public relations businessman, had recommended through the USCIRF that the US Department of State continue to designate China a “country of particular concern”. In December, he announced his adoption of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying through the commission’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.

The US Department of State issued the 2020 “International Religious Freedom Report” this month, including accusations against Beijing of suppressing Christians, Uygur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists.

In marking the release of the report Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the sanction against Chinese Communist Party official Yu Hui, who was accused of suppressing Falun Gong practitioners. Falun Gong was founded in 1992 and banned in China as an “evil cult” in 1999.

“He is designated for his involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners for their spiritual beliefs,” Blinken said.

Blinken says China ‘criminalises religious expression’ as US releases report

Blinken said Yu, the former director of the anti-heretical religions office in the southwest city of Chengdu, and his immediate family would be banned from entering the US.

On Wednesday, Zhao said the US report was filled with prejudice.

“The so-called US report ignores facts, is full of ideological prejudice, wantonly slanders China’s religious policies and seriously interferes in China’s internal affairs. China firmly opposes this,” he said.

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