Brussels [Belgium], April 5 (ANI): Relations between the European Union and China have taken a "sharp turn for the worse", due to tit-for-tat sanctions imposed by Beijing and Brussels.
Brussels had announced sanctions last week against officials involved in China's gross human rights violations against its ethnic Uyghur minority in its northwest Xinjiang region. Beijing retaliated with its own sanctions on 10 EU individuals and four entities, including five members of the European Parliament, or MEPs.
According to Voice of America (VOA), while US-China relations have declined in recent years, the European countries have enjoyed a much softer ride. After years of negotiations, Beijing and Brussels finally struck a deal aimed at liberalizing trade between them in the last days of December.
"The breakthrough was made possible by last-minute concessions from Chinese President Xi Jinping and pushes from German officials. The deal, which remains subject to approval by the European Parliament, would ensure that European investors have better access to the fast-growing Chinese market and can compete on a more level playing field in that country," VOA reported.
"It is the EU's first sanctions against China on human rights issues since the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989," said Grzegorz Stec, an expert at the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Germany, one of the four entities sanctioned by China.
Stec told VOA that the EU has imposed sanctions on China for other reasons, including a move against two Chinese people for cyberattacks last year. But this time, he said, "the EU made it clear that it was due to the human rights issue. China clearly regards this issue as China's internal affair, and China's countermeasures are unprecedented."
Among the individuals being sanctioned by China are five MEPs, Raphael Glucksmann, a French MEP and longtime French human rights advocate, said he sees the Chinese action, which includes a ban on visits to the country, as a recognition of his advocacy for Uyghur rights. After his election in 2019, Glucksmann was widely quoted as saying his goal was to become "the voice of the voiceless people."
"Fortunately, we have worked hard to raise the public's attention to this issue, which is why they (China) are angry with me," Glucksmann told VOA.
China's investment agreement with Europe is in tatters as major parties in the European Parliament are considering withholding support to the trade deal after Beijing imposed sanctions on EU officials.
China has been rebuked globally for cracking down on Uyghur Muslims by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forcible re-education or indoctrination.
Beijing, on the other hand, has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang while reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party's brutal crackdown on the ethnic community, according to a report. (ANI)