China has hit British institutions and MPs including former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith with sanctions in response to similar moves by the UK over the treatment of people in Xinjiang.
Britain, the US, Canada and the European Union on Monday slapped sanctions on Chinese officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses in the country’s autonomous north-west territory.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced a package of travel bans and asset freezes against four senior officials and the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau (XPCC PSB).
The Foreign Secretary said the abuse of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang was “one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and the international community “cannot simply look the other way”.
But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement early on Friday that the move by Mr Raab 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-UK relations”.
The ministry said it had sanctioned nine people and four British institutions “that maliciously spread lies and disinformation”.
Mr Duncan Smith, Tory MP Neil O’Brien, Lord David Alton, Conservative MPs Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani, Labour’s Baroness Helena Kennedy, barrister Geoffrey Nice, Joanne Nicola Smith Finley, and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat were the individuals sanctioned.
The groups were the China Research Group, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Uyghur Tribunal and Essex Court Chambers.
“As of today, the individuals concerned and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China, their property in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them,” the ministry said, adding it “reserves the right to take further measures”.
The ministry also said it had summoned the UK’s ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, “to lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation”.
In announcing his sanctions on Monday, Mr Raab told the Commons state control in Xinjiang is systemic.
“Over a million people have been detained without trial, there are widespread claims of torture and rape in the camps, based on first-hand survivor testimony,” he said.
“I’m sure the whole House will join me in condemning such appalling violations of the most basic human rights.”
The EU had earlier announced its own sanctions, with Beijing responding by denouncing them as “based on nothing but lies and disinformation” and targeting its own measures at 10 individuals – including five MEPS – and four institutions.
The timing of Mr Raab’s announcement came as the Government was under pressure to take a tougher stance on Beijing.
The Government faced a potential Tory revolt with backbenchers prepared to support an amendment to the Trade Bill aimed at preventing ministers signing a deal with countries involved in genocide.