US and Canada have joined the European Union and the United Kingdom to impose parallel sanctions on senior Chinese officials involved in the mass internment and abuse of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The Western nations have described the sanctions as “coordinated action” against China to send “a clear message about the human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang”
The sanctions targeted former and current officials in the Xinjiang for alleged abuses, which have sparked international outrage. The blacklisted Chinese officials include Zhu Hailun, the former secretary of the political affairs committee of Xinjiang, seen as the architect of the Uighur internment program and Wang Junzheng, the head of the Xinjiang production and construction corps.
The others are Chen Mingguo, director of Xinjiang’s public security bureau; and Wang Mingshan, secretary to the Xinjiang political committee. The coordinated move also targeted the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
This is the first time in thirty years that the UK or EU have punished China for human rights abuses. The four individuals will have their assets in the bloc frozen and be banned from travelling within the EU’s borders.
European citizens and companies also do not have permission to assist them financially. UK’s sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes.
Reason for sanctions
The United Nations has said more than one million Uighurs and other mostly Muslim Turkic-speaking residents have been held in a network of camps. Detainees have also been subject to other abuses including restrictions on freedom of religion, according to rights groups.
Defending the sanctions, UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said China’s treatment of the Uighur minority was “the largest mass detention of an ethnic and religious group since the second world war.
“Expressions of religion have been criminalized. Uighur language and culture discriminated against on a systematic scale. There is widespread use of forced labour, women forcibly sterilised, children separated from their parents.
“Acting together sends the clearest possible signal… the international community is united in its condemnation of China’s human rights violations. And the need for Beijing to end its discriminatory and oppressive practices in the region.Dominic Raab
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken also said China “continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang”. He called on Beijing to “bring an end to the repression of Uighurs”.
Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne and New Zealand Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta also welcomed the sanctions in a joint statement.
“There’s clear evidence of severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions. As well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilization.”
In an apparent tit-for-tat move, China has announced its decision to impose sanctions on 10 people from the EU. These include German politician, Reinhard Butikofer who is chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China and academic, Adrian Zenz who has done extensive research on China’s policies in Xinjiang.
Beijing also moved against four institutions including Germany’s Mercator Institute for China Studies. It accuses the institute of seriously harming the country’s sovereignty and interests over Xinjiang.
The country’s foreign ministry further issued a statement urging the EU to reverse course on the bloc’s sanctions. The ministry also employed the EU correct its “serious mistake”, warning Brussels not to interfere in its internal affairs.
“The Chinese side urges the EU to reflect on itself, face squarely the severity of its mistake, and redress it. It must stop lecturing others on human rights and interfering in their internal affairs. It must end the hypocritical practice of double standards.” further restores an
China overtook the US as the EU’s largest trading partner last year. It’s also in the middle of finalizing a comprehensive investment and trade agreement which experts say will benefit the EU.
China has defended the camps, calling them vocational skills training centres to reeducate those exposed to radical thinking.