Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, accompanied by International Religious Freedom Senior Official Dan Nadel, left,…
FILE - Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, and International Religious Freedom Senior Official Dan Nadel, left, depart after a news conference to announce the annual International Religious Freedom Report at the State Department, May 12, 2021.

The United States has sanctioned a Chinese Communist Party official for involvement “in gross violations of human rights, namely the arbitrary detention of Falun Gong practitioners for their spiritual beliefs.”

The sanctions against Yu Hui, former office director of the Central Leading Group on Preventing and Dealing with Heretical Religions, of Chengdu, Sichuan Province, were announced as Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled the State Department’s 2020 annual report on International Religious Freedom.

“Yu Hui and his family are now ineligible for entry into the United States,” Blinken said at a Wednesday press conference.

The top U.S. diplomat added that China “broadly criminalizes religious expression, and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocide against Muslim Uyghurs and members of other religious and ethnic minority groups.”

Daniel Nadel, director of the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, told VOA Wednesday that the U.S. is working very hard to “ensure that there is accountability.”

“The (Beijing) government shows blatant disregard for religious freedom, and exercises extreme hostility toward adherents of all faiths, including Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists, Protestants, Catholics and Falun Gong practitioners. It’s an issue that we are deeply concerned about,” Nadel said, citing religious freedom as a universal value.

The report said China continues to deny religious freedom, particularly to Falun Gong members.

It also said that according to a report on the Falun Gong by the China-based Church of Almighty God (CAG) — a group whose millions of followers believe Jesus Christ has been reincarnated as a woman from central China, and has long been banned by Beijing — “authorities arrested more than 7,000 of its members and subjected them to physical abuse, including beatings, sleep deprivation and being forced into stress positions."

"CAG reported some individuals died in custody or as a result of police harassment,” said the State Department report.

It added that the Chinese Communist Party continues to "harass adherents of both registered and unregistered religious groups for activities related to their religious beliefs and practices.”

The report also criticizes Myanmar for its treatment of the ethnic Rohingya minority.

“Rohingya remaining in Burma continued to face an environment of severe repression and restrictions on freedom of movement and access to education, health care, and livelihoods based on their ethnicity, religion and citizenship status, according to the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations,” the report said.

Russia was also cited for persecution of its citizens based on religion.

“Religious groups and nongovernmental organizations reported authorities continued to investigate, detain, imprison, torture and and/or physically abuse persons, or seize their property because of their religious faith, including members of groups the government classified as extremist and banned, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Tablighi Jamaat, and followers of Muslim theologian Said Nursi,” the report said.

Turkey, ostensibly a secular state, was also mentioned for its treatment of religious minorities.

“The government continued to restrict efforts of minority religious groups to train their clergy, and the Greek Orthodox Halki seminary remained closed,” the report said. “Religious minorities again reported difficulties opening or operating houses of worship; resolving land and property disputes and legal challenges of churches whose lands the government previously expropriated; holding governing board elections for their religious foundations; and obtaining exemptions from mandatory religion classes in schools.”