Britain’s Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith walks inside the Parliament grounds in London, Britain. File/Reuters
China sanctioned organisations and individuals in the United Kingdom on Friday over what it called “lies and disinformation” about Xinjiang, days after Britain imposed sanctions for human rights abuses in the western Chinese region.
The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement it sanctioned four entities and nine individuals, including lawmakers such as former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission that “maliciously spread lies and disinformation.”
Targeted individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering Chinese territory, the ministry said, adding that Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them.
The move is a retaliation to a coordinated set of sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada against Beijing over what they say are human rights violations against the Uighur Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Beijing has already applied retaliatory sanctions against the EU that were in line with Friday’s announcement.
“China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and warns the UK side not to go further down the wrong path,” the Chinese ministry said. “Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions.”
The British embassy in China did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
“It’s our duty to call out the Chinese Govt’s human rights abuse in #HongKong & the genocide of the #Uyghurs,” Smith, one of the lawmakers sanctioned by China on Friday, said on Twitter. “If that brings the anger of China down on me, I’ll wear that badge of honour.”
Activists and UN rights experts say at least 1 million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations. China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
“It seems I am to be sanctioned by the PRC (Chinese) government for speaking the truth about the #Uyghur tragedy in #Xinjiang, and for having a conscience,” Jo Smith Finley, a Uighur expert at Newcastle University, said on Twitter.
“Well, so be it. I have no regrets for speaking out, and I will not be silenced.”
“It speaks volumes that, while the UK joins the international community in sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses, the Chinese government sanctions its critics,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
“China does not stir up trouble, but China is not afraid when others do. China is not the first to shoot, neither will we be passive and submissive to threats from the outside. Today’s world is not the world of 120 years ago. The Chinese people will not be bullied.”
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