China bars four US panel members

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China has barred entry to four people from a US commission on religious freedom, the foreign ministry says, following US sanctions against Chinese people and entities over accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

The four people, from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), would be banned from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday.

Their assets in China would also be frozen and Chinese institutions and citizens would be forbidden from dealing with them, Zhao said at a regular briefing in Beijing.

The USCIRF did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The United States said that its December 10 sanctions were in response to human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region, where Uighurs and other Muslim minorities are alleged to have been unlawfully detained, mistreated and forced to work.

China denies abuses in Xinjiang and says its policies there help combat extremism.

The USCIRF is a federal government entity which evaluates and suggests policies for countries where religious freedom is deemed to be endangered.

The chair, vice chair and two commissioners at USCIRF would be barred entry, Zhao said.

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