China sanctions Britons after EU move on Xinjiang

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BEIJING (AP) – China on Friday announced sanctions on British individuals and entities following the U.K.’s joining the EU and others in sanctioning Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.

A statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said the move by the Western bloc was based on “nothing but lies and disinformation, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, and severely undermines China-U.K. relations.”

Britain’s ambassador to China has been summoned for a diplomatic protest, the statement said. Sanctioned individuals and groups would be barred from visiting Chinese territory and banned from having financial transactions with Chinese citizens and institutions.

Nine British individuals and four institutions were placed on the sanctions list, including member of Parliament 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 move in an increasingly bitter row over Xinjiang, where Beijing is accused of detaining more than 1 million members of Uyghur and other Muslim minority group. engaging in forced labor and imposing coercive birth control measures.

Chinese state TV called Thursday for a boycott of Swedish retail chain H&M; as Beijing lashed out at foreign clothing and footwear brands following Monday’s decision by the 27-nation European Union, the United States, Britain and Canada to impose travel and financial sanctions on four Chinese officials blamed for abuses in Xinjiang. Cotton and other agricultural products form a major component of the local economy in vast but thinly populated Xinjiang.

Companies ranging from Nike to Burberry that have well-established presences in China were also targeted online, with some Chinese celebrities announcing they were severing endorsement deals with some firms.

“China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and warns the U.K. side not go further down the wrong path. Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Others on the Foreign Ministry sanctions list included politicians, scholars 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, established by a group of Conservative MPs, independent research group Uyghur Tribunal and the Essex Court Chambers, a law firm that also described Chinese policies toward minorities in Xinjiang as crimes against humanity and genocide, were also listed.

Numerous other Chinese government departments and state media outlets joined in condemning the Western sanctions.

The Xinjiang government issued a lengthy statement touting economic growth. political stability and population increase in the region and pointing to violence and violations of human rights in the U.S., Britain, Canada and elsewhere and chaos brought by military interventions in Iraq and Libya.

“Any plot to to undermine Xinjiang’s prosperity and development … will certainly be doomed to shameful failture,” the statement said.

China’s ruling Communist Party and nominally independent nationalists operating mainly online have a long history of attacking foreign firms and even entire countries seen as insulting China’s national dignity or harming the country’s core interests.

South Korean retail giant Lotte saw its China business destroyed after it provided land for a U.S. air defense system that Beijing objected to, while relations with Norway had been strained for years after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to pro-democracy writer Liu Xiaobo. who died in a Chinese prison in 2017.

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