The United States, Britain, and Canada have joined the European Union in announced sanctions against Chinese officials and companies over human rights violations against the mainly Muslim ethnic-Uyghur community in China's Xinjiang Province.
The concerted effort on March 22 were what British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called part of “intensive diplomacy” to pressure Beijing as evidence of rights abuses in the province grows.
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The EU sanctions were imposed on four Chinese officials and a construction company, prompting Beijing to slap retaliatory restrictions on 10 European officials.
Raab said the sanctions by Britain, the United States, and Canada will be imposed immediately and include travel bans and asset freezes against four officials.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that “a united transatlantic response sends a strong signal to those who violate or abuse international human rights, and we will take further actions in coordination with likeminded partners.”
“We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to [China's] crimes and for justice for the many victims," Blinken said.
The EU's Official Journal on March 22 listed travel bans and asset freezes on Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau and deputy chairman of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) People’s Government, former deputy head of the XUAR legislature Zhu Hailun, as well as Wang Mingshan and Wang Junzheng -- two high-level officials in the Chinese administration of XUAR.
Chen was guilty of "arbitrary detentions and degrading treatment inflicted upon Uyghurs and people from other Muslim ethnic minorities, as well as systematic violations of their freedom of religion or belief," the Official Journal said.
Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau (XPCC) was targeted with sanctions, the EU said. XPCC is in charge of implementing all policies "relating to security matters, including the management of detention centers," the Journal said.
In a tit-for-tat move, Beijing immediately announced sanctions on 10 EU individuals, including German politician Reinhard Buetikofer -- the co-chair of the European Parliament's Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China IPAC -- and four entities that it accused of seriously harming China's sovereignty and interests over Xinjiang.
China's Foreign Ministry also urged the EU in a statement to "correct its mistake" and not to interfere in China's internal affairs.
France's Foreign Ministry denounced the sanctions imposed by China and condemned "unacceptable comments" from the Chinese ambassador in Paris in recent days, including "insults and threats toward lawmakers and a French researcher."
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It said the ministry would summon Ambassador Lu Shaye to remind him of "the elementary rules as set out by the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations."
China, which denies any human rights violations in Xinjiang, has said internment camps for Uyghurs provide vocational training and education against extremism.
The move by the EU marked the first time that the bloc has sanctioned China since imposing an arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy crackdown.
All 27 EU members agreed to the punitive measures. However, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called them "harmful" and "pointless."
Hungary is at odds with Brussels over rule-of-law violations and has sought closer relations with both Russia and China, including the acquisition of anti-COVID-19 vaccines.