U.S., EU Sanction China for Rights Abuses; China Retaliates

Uyghur Turks living in Istanbul, who cannot contact their relatives in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, gather to protest against China outside the Chinese Consulate-General in Sariyer district of Istanbul, on February 16, 2021. Photographer: Elif Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

(Bloomberg) --The U.S., U.K., and Canada joined the European Union to impose sanctions against China over alleged human rights abuses on the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, drawing an immediate reaction from Beijing.

By John Ainger and Lucille Liu
Mar 22, 2021, 2:24 PM – Updated on Mar 23, 2021, 12:33 PM
Word Count: 640

The EU kicked things off with sanctions that target four Chinese nationals and one entity. The U.S., Canada and the U.K. — chairing the Group of Seven meetings this year — largely mirrored these actions that are largely symbolic and unlikely to impact China’s economy or behavior.

In the U.K., Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, “we’re sending the clearest message to the Chinese government that the international community will not turn a blind eye to such serious and systematic violations of human rights and we will act in concert to hold those responsible to account.”

The U.S. Treasury said it had sanctioned two Chinese officials, Wang Junzheng and Chen Mingguo, “in connection with serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities” in Xinjiang. “Chinese authorities will continue to face consequences as long as atrocities occur in Xinjiang,” Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.

China’s Reaction

Rather than backing down, China has upped the ante. Following the European chastisement, Beijing said it would sanction 10 individuals and four entities on the EU side, saying the measures “harm China’s sovereignty and interest” and weren’t based on facts.

“This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, disregards and distorts facts, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, and severely undermines China-EU relations,” according to a statement from China’s foreign ministry.

China summoned a pair of ambassadors posted in Beijing to protest against the sanctions, according to statements from its Foreign Ministry. EU envoy Nicolas Chapuis was called in Monday night, followed by the U.K.’s Caroline Wilson Tuesday.

Separately, France summoned Chinese ambassador Lu Shaye over comments directed at officials and a researcher that French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Twitter would not be tolerated. The Chinese embassy responded by saying Lu could not go to the ministry Monday due to a scheduling conflict, but he would visit Tuesday to make representations about the EU’s sanctions and other issues.

The EU action is part of a new human rights violation regime targeting abuses in different countries and regions. The new sanctions will affect 11 individuals and four entities around the world. The bloc first used this approach against Russia earlier this year over the jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

“The Chinese side urges the EU side to reflect on itself, face squarely the severity of its mistake and redress it,” according to the statement.

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Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday voiced grave concerns about “credible reports” of severe human rights abuses against ethnic Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province.

“There is 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 labor and forced birth control,” Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta said in a joint statement Tuesday.

While the statement didn’t say they would issue any trade sanctions against China, it could lead to further tensions between Australia and its largest trading partner.

Those tensions ramped up in April when Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government called for independent investigators to visit Wuhan to prove the origins of the pandemic. Since then, Beijing has targeted Australian goods including coal, wine and barley for trade reprisals.

(Updates with China summoning British ambassador and France calling in Chinese envoy.)

–With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Kait Bolongaro, Greg Ritchie, Jason Scott, Philip Glamann and James Mayger.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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