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 annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
Yu Hui and his family are no longer allowed to enter the U.S., according to a news release.
The report says China continues to deny religious freedom, particularly to Falun Gong members.
It also says 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," says 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, healthcare, 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."