China bans UK politicians to retaliate human rights sanctions

Aditi Khanna
·3-min read

London, Mar 26 (PTI) China has imposed sanctions on British politicians and organisations as a tit-for-tat retaliation over the UK government’s sanctions against Chinese officials for alleged human rights violations against its Uyghur minorities in Xinjiang province.

Members of Parliament (MPs) including former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, Pakistani-origin Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton and House of Lords peers Baroness Kennedy and Lord Alton – all members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China – are named on the Chinese foreign ministry’s ban.

'The MPs and other British citizens sanctioned by China today are performing a vital role shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims,' said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

'Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them,' he said.

Four organisations -- including the China Research Group of MPs and Essex Court Chambers, which published a legal opinion describing China's actions in Xinjiang as genocide -- are also listed in the sanctions.

The other groups in the list are Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and the Uighur Tribunal.

The move comes days after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had announced sanctions against Chinese officials and organisation under the UK's Global Human Rights sanctions regime for systemic violations against Uyghur Muslims and other minorities.

'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,” said Raab in a statement on Friday.

“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,' he said.

The MPs, peers, lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, chair of the Uighur Tribunal which is investigating atrocities against the minority group, and academic Jo Smith Finley, whose research focuses on the Uyghurs are among those banned from entering China, Hong Kong and Macau, their property in China will be frozen and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith described his sanction as 'a badge of honour'.

In a Twitter statement, he said: 'It's our duty to call out the Chinese Govt's human rights abuse in Hong Kong & the genocide of the Uyghutrs.

'Those of us who live free lives under the rule of law must speak for those who have no voice.' An Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China spokesperson said: 'The decision to sanction five of our British members is a flagrant assault on those Parliamentarians' rights to conduct their duties.

'We will be making urgent representations to ministers and the House authorities to see that they're protected from danger or harm as a result of the communist party's bullying.' A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said the UK's decision to impose sanctions 'flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China's internal affairs, and severely undermines China-UK relations'.

He said the Chinese Foreign Ministry had summoned the British Ambassador to China to 'lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation'.

The retaliation comes after the UK on Monday joined the European Union (EU), Canada and the US to impose its first sanctions against Chinese government officials linked to human rights violations.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the measures are part of intensive diplomacy by the UK, US, Canada and European Union to deliver “complementary action” on Xinjiang.

It follows the trend of a growing number of countries holding China to account for its human rights record, with 39 countries signing a joint statement at the United Nations.

The UK sanctions target four senior officials and the Public Security Bureau of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps – a state-run organisation responsible for security and policing in areas administered by the XPCC. PTI AK SCY NSA