China Slaps Sanctions on U.K. Lawmakers Over Xinjiang Claims
Morning commuters wearing protective masks walk past Chinese flags displayed along Nanjing Road in Shanghai, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China Slaps Sanctions on U.K. Lawmakers Over Xinjiang Claims

China announced retaliatory sanctions on senior British politicians including the former leader of the ruling Conservative Party for “maliciously spreading lies and disinformation” about its Xinjiang region.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced in a statement on Friday that it is targeting nine individuals and four entities in the U.K.

The nine sanctioned individuals are former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, the party’s policy adviser Neil O’Brien, chair of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat, David Alton, Tim Loughton, Nusrat Ghani, Helena Kennedy, Geoffrey Nice and Joanne Nicola Smith Finley.

The individuals and their relatives are banned from entering China or trading with Chinese citizens and institutions. Any assets they have in the Asian nation will also be frozen, the statement said. The four entities hit are the China Research Group of U.K. lawmakers, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, the Uyghur Tribunal and Essex Court Chambers.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hit back in a statement. “It speaks volumes that, while the U.K. joins the international community in sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses, the Chinese government sanctions its critics.

“If Beijing want to credibly rebut claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it should allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights full access to verify the truth. “

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said sanctions that London earlier levied on China over allegations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang were “based on nothing but lies and disinformation” and “grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs.”

The message being sent to the U.K. and Europe is that by “siding with the U.S., they will not do themselves any good,” said Wang Yiwei, director of the Center for European Studies at Renmin University in Beijing. China’s aim is to eliminate the influence of these individuals, which removes them as stumbling blocks to future cooperation, he said.

Duncan Smith vowed to wear the sanction as a “badge of honor,” posting on Twitter that it was the duty of lawmakers to call out the Chinese government’s “human rights abuse” and “genocide.”

Ghani said on Twitter she would not be “intimidated or silenced”. She told BBC radio: “This is a wake up call for all democratic countries and lawmakers that we will not be able to conduct our business without China sanctioning us for just attempting to expose what’s happening in Xinjiang and the abuse against the Uyghurs.”

Earlier this week the U.K. joined the U.S., Canada and the European Union in imposing sanctions against China over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Western governments accuse China of interning up to 1 million Muslim Uyghurs in camps and compelling them to work, while also forcing children across the region into boarding schools.

The U.S. and lawmakers in Canada and the Netherlands have labeled Beijing’s actions in the region bordering Central Asia as genocide.

China dismisses the allegations, saying it is building infrastructure to boost the economy, providing jobs and educating children.

Beijing “reserves the rights to take further actions,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing Friday in Beijing.

“The U.S., the U.K., Canada and European Union provoked this in the first place,” she said. “What China did was just and legitimate self-defense.”

Multinationals are becoming ensnared in the controversy, with Chinese social-media users calling for boycotts of Hennes & Mauritz AB and Nike Inc. for not using cotton grown in Xinjiang.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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