China announced sanctions against British individuals and entities on Friday after Britain joined the EU and others to sanction Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. The move was the initial salvo in his latest response to criticism and sanctions from the West.
A statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the move by the Western bloc was based on “nothing but lies and misinformation, clearly violating international law and fundamental norms governing international relations, grossly interfering in China’s internal affairs and seriously undermining China and Britain.” ”
The British ambassador to China had been summoned to a diplomatic protest, the statement said. Sanctioned individuals and groups would be barred from visiting Chinese territory and prohibited from having financial transactions with Chinese citizens and institutions.
In a daily news report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying dropped a series of accusations against the United States, Britain, allied countries and parts of the Western media, saying they had collaborated to undermine China’s unity and development.
Sanctions against Chinese officials over Xinjiang are part of a detailed conspiracy to destabilize the region and do not reflect any real concern for Muslim rights, Hu said, adding that Beijing’s response was necessary to “defend China’s interests and dignity.”
“For a long time, the United States, Britain, and others have felt free to say what they want without allowing others to do the same,” Hua said. Those days are over and the West will “have to get used to it gradually,” said Hu Hua.
The latest sanctions and the harsh tone of Hua’s comments reflect China’s increasingly tough diplomacy under nationalist leader Xi Jinping, who has vowed to uphold China’s interests at all costs. In recent days, China has already blocked very limited BBC broadcasts to the country and put two Canadians on trial in clear revenge for the country’s detention of a head of the Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
China has rejected all criticism because of its policies in Xinjiang, along with its opposition to opposition figures in Hong Kong and threats to Taiwan, the autonomous democracy that China claims to be its own territory. It has been rumored by US sanctions against officials accused of weakening democracy in Hong Kong and angrily condemning a British plan to offer a way of residence and citizenship to millions of citizens in its former colony.
Hua opened his briefing with a video of a former assistant to retired US Secretary of State Colin Powell, saying that the US military presence in Afghanistan, which shares a narrow border with China, was partly an attempt to counter Beijing’s rise. She also appointed the National Endowment for Democracy and the Central Intelligence Agency, which work secretly to sow instability.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the sanctions and called on the Chinese authorities to allow UN representatives to Xinjiang to “verify facts” if they want to “credibly refute allegations of human rights violations.” China says diplomats are welcome in the region but only under Beijing-imposed conditions.
China “sanctions its critics”, unlike Britain and the rest of the international community who “sanction human rights abuses”, Raab said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave his support to the sanctioned.
“MPs and other British citizens currently sanctioned by China play an important role in highlighting the gross human rights abuses perpetrated against Uighur Muslims,” Johnson tweeted.
“The freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand by them.”
Nine British individuals and four institutions were placed on the sanctions list, including MEP Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative Party’s Human Rights Commission. Duncan Smith is a former leader of the Conservatives.
China’s sanctions are the latest step in an increasingly bitter row over Xinjiang, in which Beijing is accused of detaining more than a million members of Uighur and other Muslim minority groups, through forced labor and the introduction of coercive medicine.
Chinese state television on Thursday called for a boycott of the Swedish retail chain H&M when Beijing cracked down on foreign clothing and footwear brands following Monday’s decision by the 27 countries European Union, US, UK and Canada to impose travel and economic sanctions on four Chinese officials blamed for abuse in Xinjiang. Cotton and other agricultural products form an important part of the local economy in the large but sparsely populated Xinjiang.
Companies from Nike to Burberry that have well-established presence in China were also targeted online, with some Chinese celebrities saying they terminated approval agreements.
“China is determined to protect its national sovereignty, security and development interests and warns the British side not to go any further. Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions, the Foreign Ministry said.
Others on the State Department’s sanctions list included politicians, researchers and human rights activists Tom Tugendhat, Neil O’Brien, David Alton, Tim Loughton, Nusrat Ghani, Helena Kennedy, Geoffrey Nice and Joanne Nicola Smith Finley. The China Research Group, set up by a group of conservative MPs, the independent research group Uighur Tribunal and the Essex Court Chambers, a law firm that also described Chinese policy towards minorities in Xinjiang as crimes against humanity and genocide, was also listed.
Ghani, a Muslim MP, said she “will not be intimidated” by Beijing’s “extraordinary” moves.
“This is a wake-up call for all democratic countries and legislators that we will not be able to conduct our daily activities without China sanctioning us for just trying to uncover what is happening in Xinjiang and the abuse of the Uighurs,” she told BBC Radio.
Many other Chinese government ministries and state media agreed to condemn Western sanctions.
The Xinjiang government issued a lengthy statement on economic growth, political stability and population growth in the region, pointing to violence and human rights violations in the United States, Britain, Canada and elsewhere, and chaos as a result of military intervention in Iraq and Libya.
“Any conspiracy to undermine Xinjiang’s prosperity and development … will surely be doomed to shameful failure,” the statement said.
China’s ruling Communist Party and nominally independent nationalists who work mainly online have a long history of attacking foreign companies and even entire countries that are seen as insulting China’s national dignity or harming the country’s core interests.
South Korean retail giant Lotte saw its Chinese business destroyed after it provided land for a US air defense system that Beijing opposed, while relations with Norway were strained for years after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Democratic author Liu Xiaobo, who died in a Chinese prison 2017.
( Jowharwith AP, AFP)