China has announced sanctions against organizations and individuals in the United Kingdom over what Beijing called "maliciously spread lies and disinformation" over China’s treatment of its Muslim Uyghur minority.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on March 26 that it sanctioned four entities and nine individuals, including British lawmakers. The move was the latest in an intensifying diplomatic dispute over the human rights situation in China's northwest Xinjiang region.
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The ministry cited Britain’s recently imposed sanctions against China in its statement.
"This move, 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-U.K. relations,” it said.
China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security, and development interests, the statement said, warning Britain “not to go further down the wrong path. Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions."
The sanctioned parties and their immediate family members are barred from entering China -- including Hong Kong and Macau -- their property in the country is frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions are banned from dealings with them.
The move is a retaliation to a coordinated set of sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union, Britain, and Canada against Beijing over what the countries call human rights violations against the Uyghur Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Beijing already applied retaliatory sanctions against the EU.
Activists and UN rights experts say at least 1 million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been held in camps in Xinjiang.
The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labor, and sterilizations against the Uyghurs. China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
Jo Smith Finley, a Uyghur expert at Newcastle University, reacted on Twitter to being listed among the individuals sanctioned.
"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," she said. "Well, so be it. I have no regrets for speaking out, and I will not be silenced."