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China slaps sanctions on four US citizens in retaliatory measure

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference in Beijing, China on April 8, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

China has slapped sanctions on four American citizens in retaliation for similar measures adopted by Washington against Beijing over the western autonomous region of Xinjiang.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that Beijing blacklisted four members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), namely chairperson Nadine Maenza, vice chairman Nury Turkel, as well as commissioners Anurima Bhargava and James W. Carr.

"These countermeasures include the prohibition of the above-mentioned persons from entering China and the freezing of their assets in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau," Lijian said at a press briefing in Beijing.

Chinese individuals and entities would also be banned from dealing with the four designated people, according to the spokesman.

The retaliatory measure comes as Washington earlier this month hit Chinese citizens and entities with sanctions over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

On Thursday, US senators also gave final congressional approval to a bill banning imports from Xinjiang unless businesses can prove they were produced without forced labor.

Activists and UN rights experts allege that at least one million Muslims have been forced into camps in the western autonomous region of Xinjiang.

Beijing refutes the allegations that Uighurs are unfairly marginalized, saying it is addressing underdevelopment and lack of jobs in the heavily Uighur populated areas such as Xinjiang.

Chinese officials have characterized the camps as “vocational education and employment training centers” for “criminals involved in minor offenses.”

The United States, Britain, Canada, and the European Union have imposed sanctions on China with regard to allegations of human rights violations in the region.

China has also imposed sanctions on a number of American and Canadian officials in retaliation.

The mostly Muslim-Turkic ethnic group of Uighurs, which makes up about 45 percent of the population in Xinjiang, has long accused Beijing of cultural, religious, and economic discrimination.

China’s government rejects the accusation. It believes exiled separatist groups are planning ‘attacks’ in the resource-rich Xinjiang, which is strategically located on the borders of Central Asia.

It has accused the foreign powers, especially the US, of fanning propaganda regarding the situation in the resource-rich territory north-west of China.

ich is strategically located on the borders of Central Asia.

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