China sanctions British officials, entities over Uighur ‘lies, disinformation’

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March 26 (UPI) — Days after Britain imposed punitive measures against Beijing for committing human rights abuses against its Uighur minority citizens, China retaliated on Friday, blacklisting British nationals and organizations that “spread lies and disinformation.”

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the sanctions against nine British people and four organizations in a statement, threatening to take further actions if necessary.

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British Parliament members Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith, Neil O’Brien, Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani were sanctioned along with David Alton and Helena Kennedy of the House of Lords, barrister Geoffrey Nice and Uighur academic Joanne Nicola Smith Finley.

Entities the China Research Group, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, the Uighur Tribunal and the Essex Court Chambers were also named.

“China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests and warns the U.K. side not go further down the wrong path,” the ministry said. “Otherwise China will resolutely make further reactions.”

The sanctions bar those named and their immediate family from entering China while freezing any assets they may own within its borders and prohibiting Chinese citizens from doing business with them.

“It seems I am to be sanctioned by the PRC (Chinese) government for speaking the truth about the Uighur tragedy in Xinjiang and for having a conscience,” Finley tweeted in reaction to being blacklisted. “Well, so be it. I have no regrets for speaking out and I will not be silenced.”

Duncan Smith responded that he’ll wear China’s anger as a badge of honor.

“Those of us who live free lives under the rule of law must speak for those who have no voice,” he said.

Britain, Canada, the European Union and the United States on Monday jointly sanctioned Chinese officials and entities over their involvement in systematic human rights violations against Uighurs in northwestern Xinjiang region.

The countries accuse China of arbitrarily interning more than a million Uighurs and other Muslim minority citizens in Xinjiang camps where they are subjected to forced labor, torture and sterilization with both the U.S. State Department and Canada’s Parliament declaring Beijing’s treatment amounts to genocide.

China vehemently rebukes the accusations, stating the camps are to stamp out terrorism through education and repeatedly demands foreign nations from interfering in its internal affairs.

On Friday, China lashed out at Britain for the “unilateral” sanctions.

“This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs and severely undermines China-U.K. relations,” the ministry said.

It also said China summoned Britain’s Ambassador to China Caroline Wilson to lodge “solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation.”

The sanctions by China follow those it imposed against 10 members of the EU and four of its entities after the joint punitive measures were imposed against Beijing on Monday.

Asked during a regular press briefing on Thursday if Beijing was considering sanctioning the other involved nations, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said they will make “necessary, just and justified reactions to all moves that viciously smear and attack China.”

“I must stress that China never starts provocation, but we will not flinch from any provocation coming our way,” she said.

After the EU members and entities were blacklisted, David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, warned they will not be intimidated.

“We will never be silenced by those who feel threatened by our institution and seek to punish our members for defending freedom of expression and standing by the victims of human rights violations,” he said in a statement. “China’s sanctions against EU bodies are unacceptable.”