WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Monday expanded existing U.S. travel bans against Chinese officials whom it accuses of repressing ethnic and religious minorities.
The State Department said it is barring those targeted from traveling to the United States due to their involvement in crackdowns on freedom of speech and religion in China and abroad. The department did not identify which officials would be subject to the expanded ban nor say how many would be affected.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the sanctions are being applied to Chinese officials who "are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, policies or actions aimed at repressing religious and spiritual practitioners, members of ethnic minority groups, dissidents, human rights defenders, journalists, labor organizers, civil society organizers, and peaceful protestors in China and beyond."
The move adds to visa restrictions originally imposed by the Trump administration over China's treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang as well as for repression of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and advocates for freedoms in Tibet.
"The United States rejects efforts by (Chinese) officials to harass, intimidate, surveil, and abduct members of ethnic and religious minority groups, including those who seek safety abroad, and U.S. citizens, who speak out on behalf of these vulnerable populations," Blinken said. "We are committed to defending human rights around the world and will continue to use all diplomatic and economic measures to promote accountability."
Just last week, the Justice Department announced charges against five men accused of acting on behalf of the Chinese government in a series of brazen and wide-ranging schemes to stalk and harass Chinese dissidents in the United States.
The criminal cases, filed in federal court in Brooklyn, alleged longstanding efforts to dig up dirt on dissidents, intimidate them and stifle their speech.
It's not the first time the Justice Department has brought charges for similar conduct: in 2020, prosecutors charged eight people with working on behalf of the Chinese government in a pressure campaign aimed at coercing a New Jersey man who was wanted by Beijing into returning to China to face charges.