Boris Johnson has met with MPs and peers who were hit by sanctions in a retaliatory move by Beijing after they highlighted China’s “gross human rights violations”.
The Prime Minister hosted five of the parliamentarians in Downing Street’s rose garden on Saturday morning to express that he stands “firmly with them”.
Conservative MPs Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Nus Ghani and Tim Loughton attended, as did Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy, for a roughly half-hour meeting.
It came after Mr Johnson and US president Joe Biden shared their concerns about the retaliatory action in a phone call on Friday.
Beijing had struck back with sanctions against nine critics of the Chinese state in Britain after the UK, the US and other allies brought sanctions against Chinese officials over human rights abuses against the Uighur people in Xinjiang.
Mr Johnson tweeted: “This morning I spoke with some of those who have been shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims.
“I stand firmly with them and the other British citizens sanctioned by China.”
One source in the rose garden said Mr Johnson referred to the parliamentarians as “warriors in the fight for free speech” who have his “full-throated support” and expressed bafflement at Beijing’s “ridiculous” actions.
The Prime Minister said he and Mr Biden had agreed that they were “on the side of angels”, according to the source.
Later in the day, China imposed sanctions against a Canadian MP and two American religious rights officials in a fresh act of retaliation.
Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain and the other parliamentarians present in the rose garden earlier said the sanctions “will only serve to encourage us to redouble our efforts”.
On Friday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced nine Britons and their family members will be prohibited from entering China and Hong Kong.
Chinese citizens and institutions will also be banned from doing business with them.
Conservative MPs Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien are among the nine, along with barrister Geoffrey Nice and academic Joanne Nicola Smith.
Beijing was striking back after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab set out a package of travel bans and asset freezes against four senior officials and the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, in an internationally co-ordinated move with the US, Canada and European Union.
On Saturday, Mr Raab said: “We will continue to do everything we can to support those MPs affected and I look forward to discussing what more support we can provide them.”