Beijing has announced sanctions against four members of a US government commission monitoring religious freedom, in response to Washington’s latest sanctions targeting China’s Xinjiang policies two weeks ago. Speaking at Tuesday’s regular press conference, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the quartet from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) were its chairwoman Nadine Maenza, vice-chairman Nury Turkel and commissioners Anurima Bhargava and James Carr. The bipartisan commission monitors freedom of religion outside the United States and makes policy recommendations for the president, the secretary of state and Congress. The sanctions ban the four from entering China, including Hong Kong and Macau, freeze their assets in China and prohibit them from doing business with Chinese nationals and institutions, Zhao said. Maenza responded in a USCIRF announcement made after Beijing’s move, calling the sanctions against her and her colleagues “baseless” and “in response to growing concern over egregious human rights and religious freedom violations”. “As we have said before—USCIRF will not be silenced,” Maenza said. “The Chinese government needs to end its state-led oppression of Uygurs, Tibetans, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and others, rather than implementing misguided sanctions.” The latest US sanctions on Chinese officials were announced on Human Rights Day, on December 10. The state and treasury departments then revealed the inclusion of four additional Chinese officials for their links to China’s policies in its western region of Xinjiang , where Beijing is accused of human rights abuses against Uygur Muslims . Those four officials included Shohrat Zakir and Erken Tuniyaz, respectively the former and current chairman of Xinjiang ’s regional government – both ethnic Uygurs. The others were Chen Mingguo, Xinjiang ’s police chief, and Hu Lianhe, formerly of the United Front Work Department , the Communist Party’s organ for courting social elites outside the party. What is going on in Xinjiang and who are the Uygur people? Tensions between Beijing and Washington continue to grow over China’s human rights record. Last Thursday, US senators gave final approval to a bill barring imports from Xinjiang, citing alleged forced labour. The Biden administration said earlier that day that it would impose new sanctions on a handful of Chinese biotechnology and surveillance companies and government entities, because of their supporting role in actions in Xinjiang. The USCIRF has been included before in sanctions imposed by Beijing. In May, China placed sanctions on the body’s then commissioner Johnnie Moore after the US State Department released its 2020 annual report on international religious freedom. Moore last December said he had adopted Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying through the USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. Lai is serving a 20-month jail term for his roles in four unauthorised demonstrations in Hong Kong, including anti-government protests and the city’s annual Tiananmen Square vigil . He also faces collusion charges under Hong Kong’s National Security Law , imposed last year by Beijing. The White House on Monday named a high-ranking official as its special coordinator for Tibetan issues. The appointment of Uzra Zeya , the undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights, signalled US President Joe Biden ’s commitment to advancing Tibetans’ rights and addressing environmental challenges on the Tibetan Plateau, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. Commenting on the appointment on Tuesday, Zhao said Tibet did not need concern or finger-pointing from the US.