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In Tit-For-Tat Move, China Hits U.S. Officials With Sanctions Following Xinjiang Penalties

The U.S. State Department on December 20 named Undersecretary of State Uzra Zeya as the special coordinator for Tibet. (file photo)

China has imposed sanctions on four members of the U.S. government's Commission on International Religious Freedom in the latest tit-for-tat measure after Washington's penalties last week against Chinese officials and companies over alleged abuses in the country’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on December 21 that commission Chairwoman Nadine Maenza, Vice Chairman Nury Turkel, and members Anurima Bhargava and James W. Carr are barred from visiting mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. In addition, any assets they have in the country will be frozen.

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Zhao gave no indication as to whether those barred have assets in China.

Beijing's move came as Washington appointed a new special coordinator for Tibet on December 20.

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 in camps for "political reeducation" in Xinjiang.

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

The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on December 10 on two officials accused of involvement in the repression of Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

The U.S. sanctions also included a ban on virtually all imports from the region -- a major global cotton producer -- over forced labor allegations and the blacklisting of Chinese companies such as drone maker DJI over their alleged work with authorities in Xinjiang.

The U.S. State Department on December 20 named Undersecretary of State Uzra Zeya as the special coordinator for Tibet.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Zeya, who is responsible for democracy and human rights, would lead U.S. efforts to ensure that China respects Tibet's religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage.

Washington has also announced a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in China. Several other countries have joined in the boycott, which does not affect them from sending athletes.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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