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China sanctions US religious leader, former Trump appointee

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The Chinese government has imposed retaliatory sanctions on an American citizen who served on the U.S. government’s commission on international religious freedom. 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday announced sanctions against Johnnie Moore, an evangelical pastor and business owner, saying that he and his family are barred from entering mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau.

“In response to the US blatant move to endorse cults and impose unilateral sanctions to Chinese personnel based on lies and disinformation, China decides to sanction Johnnie Moore, Commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during a press conference. 

The move is in retaliation for the U.S. earlier this month blacklisting former Chinese official Yu Hui for persecution of religious minorities, in particular the Chinese-banned Falun Gong movement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday condemned the move by China as an attempt to “intimidate and silence those speaking out for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief, only draw additional international attention and scrutiny to its egregious abuses.”

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) on Thursday condemned China for the sanctions on Moore.

It said the sanctions “will only draw more international attention to the atrocities and horrors being perpetrated by the Chinese government against the Uyghurs, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners, and countless other Chinese citizens.”

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal commission mandated by Congress to monitor the state of religious freedom worldwide and make policy recommendations to the president, secretary of State and lawmakers. 

Commissioners volunteer their time and are appointed by the president and Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. 

Moore was serving for the second time on the USCIRF and was appointed by former President Trump.

Moore stepped down as a commissioner from the USCIRF on May 14, telling The Hill he had long planned to leave before his term expired in 2022 to spend more time with his family and religious and business ventures. 

Moore is president of the Congress of Christian Leaders and the founder of the public relations firm KAIROS Company. 

“Frankly, I have zero concerns about the sanctions. In fact, I count it a privilege,” he told The Hill. 

“It is, in fact, a tremendous way to close out my service knowing I had enough of an impact that I drew the ire of the foreign ministry of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party].” 

Moore is involved in promoting religious freedom for persecuted minorities in China, including Christians, Uyghur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, among others.

In December he “adopted” imprisoned Chinese pro-Democracy activist and media tycoon Jimmy Lai through the “Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project,” as part of advocacy for Lai’s freedom.

In April, Lai was sentenced to 14 months in prison on charges of unauthorized assembly stemming from his arrest in August 2020. 

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