BEIJING (Reuters) – China has imposed sanctions on nine Britons, including lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party, for spreading what it said were “lies and misinformation” about alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, prompting a harsh reprimand from London.
Relations between China and the West are rapidly deteriorating, in particular as Beijing strongly rejects sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union, Great Britain and Canada for what they say are rights violations against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. .
China sanctioned four entities and nine people, including lawmakers such as former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, who “maliciously spread lies and misinformation.”
Affected people and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering Chinese territory, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, adding that Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them.
Britain condemned the move as an attempt by Beijing to suppress criticism, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he sympathized with those affected and Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said he would summon China’s ambassador to London.
Those sanctioned “are playing a vital role in shedding light on the serious human rights violations being perpetrated against Uighur Muslims,” Johnson wrote on Twitter.
Lawmaker Duncan Smith said he used the sanctions as a “badge of honor.”
This month Britain released a foreign policy review setting out its ambitions to gain more influence in the Indo-Pacific region as a way to moderate China’s growing global power, but acknowledged that it must work with Beijing on trade and global issues such as climate change. .
British luxury fashion brand Burberry has been hit in recent days by a Chinese backlash over Western allegations of abuse in Xinjiang.
“China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and warns the British side not to go the wrong way,” the Chinese ministry said. “Otherwise, China will react decisively.”
London and Beijing have been exchanging angry words on a variety of issues, including China’s reforms in the former British colony Hong Kong and China’s trade policy.
Activists and UN rights experts say at least one million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. Activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labor and sterilization.
China has repeatedly denied all allegations of abuse, saying its camps offer vocational training and are necessary to fight extremism.
“It seems that the government of the People’s Republic of China (China) is going to sanction me for telling the truth about the #Uyghur tragedy in #Xinjiang and for having a conscience,” said Jo Smith Finley, a Uighur expert at Newcastle University On twitter.
“Well, so be it. I do not regret having spoken and I will not be silenced. “
Reporting by Ben Blanchard in Taipei, William James, Sarah Young and Paul Sandle in London, Se Young Lee in Washington and Gabriel Crossley in Beijing; Editing by Richard Pullin, Karishma Singh and Nick Macfie