Sanctions were announced Wednesday against a former Chinese Communist Party official accused of gross violations of human rights, including violations of religious freedom against a banned religious movement.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the sanctions target Yu Hui, who had been the director of an office that was engaged in allegedly persecuting members of the Falun Gong, a sect that was popular in the 1990s before eventually being banned by the Chinese government, reports The Hill.
"We will continue to consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in China and elsewhere," the secretary said in a statement announcing the action.
Yu was the former director of the "so-called ‘Central Leading Group on Preventing and Dealing with Heretical Religions’ of Chengdu, Sichuan Province," according to Blinken.
He said Yu had been involved in the arbitrary detention of the Falun Gong, and that the sanctions will prevent the former official and members of his immediate family from getting visas and coming to the United States.
The sanctions came with the release of the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom for 2020, which documents the state of religious freedom around the world.
In 2020 alone, more than 6,600 Falun Gong practitioners in China were arrested, according to the report.
It further said there was also "severe societal discrimination" in employment, housing, and business opportunities.
Since 1999, the annual report has designated China as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), a severe classification that notes when a government has "engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom."
The document also says the Chinese Communist Part restricts personal freedom and activities of religious believers who they say threaten state or national party interests.
The Chinese government allows the practice of "patriotic religious associations" such as Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Protestantism, and Catholicism, but it restricts their practices while prohibiting other religions.
According to the State Department, the Chinese Communist government imposes restrictions on these practices and then prohibits other religions. The assessment also notes that religious practitioners have died while in the custody of the government, which tortured, physically abused, arrested, detained, sentenced to prison, or subjected them forced indoctrination of Chinese Communist Party ideology.
Wednesday's sanctions follow other actions against Chinese officials for persecuting religious minorities, specifically against the minority Uyghur community in the Xinjiang province.
China said it does not practice genocide against the Uyghurs and that buildings described by the international community as detention centers are really education and vocational institutions.
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