China Sanctions UK Politicians, Lawyers in Retaliation for Xinjiang Measures

March 26, 2021 Updated: March 26, 2021

The Chinese regime announced on Friday it is imposing sanctions on British individuals and entities in retaliation for UK sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for the alleged abuse of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

Britain announced sanctions on March 22 in coordination with the European Union, Canada, and the United States against Chinese officials over the alleged human rights abuses of Uyghur Muslims.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday it had summoned Britain’s ambassador to China to “lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation.”

Beijing had decided to sanction nine individuals and four entities on the UK side that “maliciously spread lies and disinformation,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

In response, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “The MPs and other British citizens sanctioned by China today are performing a vital role shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims.”

“Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them,” he wrote on Twitter.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement: “It speaks volumes that, while the UK joins the international community in sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses, the Chinese government sanctions its critics.

“If Beijing want to credibly rebut claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it should allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights full access to verify the truth.”

The nine UK individuals include five Conservative MPs—Tom Tugendhat, Iain Duncan Smith, Neil O’Brien, Tim Loughton, and Nusrat Ghani—who have been vocal about the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Tugendhat, one of the targeted MPs, who chairs the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, responded on Twitter that “Attempting to silence those elected by the British people is a direct assault of British democracy and our sovereignty.”

Ghani said she “won’t be intimidated or silenced,” and neither should the British government.

“I will use my freedom to raise the plight of the Uyghur & I will take this sanction as badge of honour,” she wrote on Twitter.

The list includes two members of the House of Lords—Lord David Alton, a cross-bencher, and Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy.

Also targeted was Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who chaired the China Tribunal on forced organ harvesting and is now leading a tribunal investigating Beijing’s treatment of the Uyghurs.

In addition, a British academic—Joanne Nicola Smith Finley from Newcastle University—was subjected to the measures.

Finley wrote on Twitter: “It seems I am to be sanctioned by the PRC (Chinese) government for speaking the truth about the #Uyghur tragedy in #Xinjiang, and for having a conscience. Well, so be it. I have no regrets for speaking out, and I will not be silenced.”

The entities targeted include the China Research Group, established by a group of Conservative MPs to reshape the UK’s China policy; the Conservative Human Rights Commission; and Essex Court Chambers, which issued a legal opinion in February that “the available evidence credibly establishes that crimes against humanity and the crime of genocide have been committed” in Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs, according to the Global Legal Action Network.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the sanctioned individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao, and their property in China, if any, will be frozen.

The regime has already sanctioned EU individuals in retaliation for EU sanctions against Chinese officials. It said on March 22 it had decided to impose sanctions on European lawmakers, the EU’s main foreign policy decision-making body known as the Political and Security Committee, and two institutes.

Reuters contributed to this report.