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Ethnic Uyghur demonstrators take part in a protest against China in Istanbul on October 1.

The U.S. government has announced sanctions on several Chinese biotech and surveillance firms, while the Senate approved legislation barring some imports from China's western Xinjiang region, in the latest steps against Beijing over human rights abuses against Uyghurs, a major indigenous ethnic group in Xinjiang.

Citing the Chinese entities' roles in the Beijing regime's actions against Uyghurs, the U.S. Commerce Department and the Treasury Department on December 16 announced synchronized punitive measures.

Locked Up In China: The Plight Of Xinjiang's Muslims

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is partnering with its sister organization, Radio Free Asia, to highlight the plight of Muslims living in China's western province of Xinjiang.

The Commerce Department added the Academy of Military Medical Sciences and its 11 research institutes that focus on using biotechnology to support the Chinese military to its list of firms and institutions, restricting access to exports.

The Treasury Department, meanwhile, added eight Chinese technology firms, including drone maker DJI Technology Co Ltd., to an investment blacklist, according to the department's website.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the new sanctions on December 17 by saying it would "take all necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese institutions and enterprises."

The measures, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said, indicate that "the U.S. has no scruples about smearing China by every means."

China has been under growing international criticism and hit with sanctions for detaining more than 1 million Uyghurs and representatives of Xinjiang's other indigenous, mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking ethnic groups for political "reeducation" in Xinjiang.

China insists such camps are "vocational education centers" aimed at helping people steer clear of terrorism.

A senior U.S. administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that U.S. intelligence has established that China has set up a high-tech surveillance system across Xinjiang employing biometric facial recognition and collecting DNA samples from all the region's residents aged 12 to 65 as part of a systematic effort to suppress Uyghurs.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate gave final approval on December 16 to a bill barring all imports from China’s Xinjiang region unless businesses can prove they were produced without forced labor.

The vote, by unanimous consent, to approve the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act came two days after the House of Representatives also passed it.

The bill now goes to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it.

The White House announced last week it would stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, citing China's "egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang."

With reporting by AP and Reuters

A court in Moscow has ordered Twitter, Facebook's owner Meta, and TikTok to pay more fines for violating the country’s rules on banned content.

A magistrate court in the Russian capital ruled in separate hearings on December 16 that Twitter must pay 10 million rubles ($135,300), Meta 13 million rubles ($176,000), and TikTok 4 million rubles ($54,130) for failing or refusing to delete banned content as instructed in an earlier ruling.

The fines are the latest in a series of rulings in recent months against Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram, and TikTok on similar charges that the social media platforms are not heeding Russia's Internet laws.

Communications regulator Roskomnadzor said earlier that Google, Facebook, and Twitter failed to delete about 5,500 items considered as banned in Russia with the amount of fines they have been ordered to pay now topping 140 million rubles ($1,894,700). It is not clear whether the companies have paid any of the fines levied against them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused social media platforms and other tech giants of flouting the country's Internet laws, including a push seeking to force foreign firms to open offices in Russia and store Russians' personal data on its territory.

Many critics say the push has nothing to do with "Internet integrity" and instead accuse the authorities of trying to quell dissent.

Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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