China sanctions two Americans who helped set US policy

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China slapped sanctions on two Americans who have been involved with setting US policy, hitting back at Washington after it leveled measures against officials from the Asian nation over allegations of human rights abuses in Tibet.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing said in a statement on Friday that Miles Yu and Todd Stein would be banned from entering the country and have any assets there frozen, punishments that that’ll likely wind up being symbolic given their limited activity within China.

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The move was in response to “illegal sanctions levied against Chinese officials on Dec. 9,” the ministry said. That was a reference to Wu Yingjie, the former Communist Party leader of Tibet, and Zhang Hongbo, a police official, a pair the Treasury Department said were involved with a range of crimes in the region, including killings.

The latest sanctions are a reminder of the lingering tensions between China and the US even as they take steps to prevent ties from worsening. When President Joe Biden met Chinese leader Xi Jinping last month at the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, they agreed to resume talks on issues such as climate change.

Beijing had halted those discussions in response to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visiting Taiwan in August, a trip that raised fears of a military conflict between the two superpowers. China conducted unprecedented military drills around the island after Pelosi’s visit, including sending missiles over Taiwan.

Yu served as an adviser to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is now a senior fellow of the China Center at Hudson Institute, a think tank.

Stein was an adviser to Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall during the Obama administration. He is now deputy staff director on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a US government body that tracks human rights issues in the Asian nation.

The sanctions against Wu and Zhang came the day the US announced it was punishing several entities linked to China’s illegal fishing industry, prompting Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning to say the US should not “impose unwarranted sanctions on other countries or act as a world policeman.”

Human rights groups accuse China of religious oppression in Tibet as a way to assert greater control over the far western region bordering India, a boundary that Xi himself pledged to bolster during a visit in 2021.

Chinese diplomats reject the criticism their government targets religious activities in Tibet, saying it brings economic and education opportunities to an impoverished region.

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