In a dramatic escalation, minutes after an EU decision to sanction China over abuses of Uyghurs, Beijing on Monday hit back with counter-sanctions on European parliamentarians, research scholars, and institutions for “maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it was sanctioning 10 individuals and four entities on the EU side.
They include five members of the European Parliament, one Dutch, Belgian, and Lithuanian MP apiece, as well as Adrian Zenz, a German scholar in the Xinjiang region (where the Uyghurs are concentrated), and Swedish National China Centre Director Bjorn Jerden. These individuals and their families are prohibited from entering or doing any business in China, Hong Kong, and Macao.
The EU Council’s Political and Security Committee, the EP’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Mercator Institute for China Studies, and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark led by ex-NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen were threatened with sanctions.
The Chinese reaction came shortly after the EU foreign ministers for the first time agreed to impose restrictive measures against four high-ranking Chinese party officials and a company for abuses and the large-scale arbitrary detentions of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.
Blasting the sanctions as lies and disinformation that severely undermine China-EU relations, the Chinese statement urged the EU to reflect on and redress the “severity of its mistake.” It threatened to further actions if the EU did not stop interfering in its internal affairs.
Beijing called the sanctions on the “so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang” to be based on distorted facts and in breach of international law and norms governing international relations.
The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), whose members are party to the sanctions, deplored attempts to intimidate and silence foreign politicians and research scholars, saying it only serves to undermine and discredit the Chinese government’s message.
French MEP Glucksmann, a vocal critic of China and leading campaigner of the Free Uyghurs movement, said the threats of sanctions will not affect his work. “We will continue to fight against your crimes and to break the silences which surround them.”
The Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45% of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and, economic discrimination.
Up to 1 million people, or about 7% of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to US officials and UN experts.