China blacklisted four members of a US federal commission on religious freedom on Tuesday in the latest tit-for-tat response to Washington’s own sanctions targeting alleged perpetrators of genocide in Xinjiang.

The plight of China’s Muslim minority Uyghurs living in Xinjiang has contributed to worsening diplomatic relations between Western powers and Beijing, which denies any abuses.

USCIRF chair Nadine Maenza, vice chairman Nury Turkel, commissioners Anurima Bhargava and James W. Carr.

Washington has slapped sanctions on a growing list of Chinese politicians and companies as well as a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics, sparking fury in Beijing and reciprocal measures.

On Tuesday China announced the latest targets — four members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Beijing’s Foreign Ministry named chairwoman Nadine Maenza, vice chairman Nury Turkel, as well as commissioners Anurima Bhargava and James W. Carr as newly sanctioned.

“These countermeasures include the prohibition of the above-mentioned persons from entering China and the freezing of their assets in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters.

“Chinese citizens and institutions are also prohibited from dealing with these people.”

Set up in 1998, USCIRF is a federal commission that surveys religious freedom around the world and has been a vocal critic of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, a rare bipartisan issue in polarised Washington.

Campaigners say that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region.

A verified drone shot from 2019 of Uighur prisoners being transferred by train. File photo: Weibo.

Human rights groups and foreign governments have found evidence of what they say is mass detentions, forced labour, political indoctrination, torture and forced sterilisation. Washington has described it as genocide.

After initially denying the existence of the Xinjiang camps, China later defended them as vocational training centres aimed at reducing the appeal of Islamic extremism.

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