The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on two senior Chinese officials over “serious human rights abuse” in Tibet, including alleged torture and killings of prisoners and forced sterilization.

The United States blocked any US assets and criminalized transactions with Wu Yingjie, who was China’s boss in Tibet from 2016 to 2021, and Zhang Hongbo, China’s police chief in the Himalayan region since 2018 who is believed to still be in charge.

The sanctions announcement comes despite a relative easing of tensions between the United States and China since Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping met last month in Bali and agreed to step up dialogue.

“Our actions further aim to disrupt and deter the People’s Republic of China’s arbitrary detention and physical abuse of members of religious minority groups in the Tibetan Autonomous Region,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Wu directed a policy of “stability” in Tibet that included “serious human rights abuse, including extrajudicial killings, physical abuse, arbitrary arrests and mass detentions,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: US Department of State via Flickr.

“Additional abuses during Wu’s tenure include forced sterilization, coerced abortion, restrictions on religious and political freedoms and the torture of prisoners.”

Zhang has engaged in abuses including torture and killing of prisoners through running detention centers across Tibet, it said.

China has ruled the predominantly Buddhist region with an iron first since 1951 when it sent in troops in what it called a “peaceful liberation.” The region’s spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled in 1959 to India amid an abortive uprising.

In recent years, the international spotlight has increasingly focused on Xinjiang to Tibet’s north, where the United States says that China is carrying out a policy of genocide against Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim, Turkic-speaking people.

As part of a slew of sanctions Friday, the United States also targeted North Korea’s border guards over their shoot-on-sight orders against citizens fleeing into China and Russia.

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