Beijing strikes back after UK sanctions – and adds senior British politicians to its own list

China has sanctioned individuals and organisations in the UK who it said "maliciously spread lies and disinformation" – days after the British government imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for alleged gross human rights violations in Xinjiang.  

Members of parliament including former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat, were among those named by China’s foreign ministry.

It means they will be banned from entering Hong Kong and Macau as well as mainland China.

Organisations including the China Research Group of MPs and Essex Court Chambers, which published a legal opinion describing China’s actions in Xinjiang as genocide, were also included in the sanctions.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab responded in a tweet on Friday: "While the UK joins the international community to sanction human rights abuses, Chinese govt sanctions its critics.

"If Beijing want to credibly rebut claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it should give @UNHumanRights access to verify facts."

Iain Duncan Smith described the sanctions as "a badge of honour".

On Twitter, he wrote: "It’s our duty to call out the Chinese Govt’s human rights abuse in Hong Kong & the genocide of the Uighurs.

"Those of us who live free lives under the rule of law must speak for those who have no voice."

On Monday, the UK joined the EU, Canada and the US in sanctioning China – the first time the UK had imposed asset freezes and travel bans on Chinese officials.

China immediately imposed retaliatory sanctions on the EU, including on members of the European Parliament.

But it seems to have been relatively surprised by the British sanctions, taking several days longer to respond.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the UK sanctions were "based on nothing but lies and disinformation" and that the move "severely undermines China-UK relations".

The spokesperson added that they had summoned the British Ambassador to China to express their opposition.

As well as the travel ban, sanctioned individuals are also forbidden from doing business with Chinese citizens or companies.

Activists and UN rights experts say around a million Uighur Muslims and other minorities have been detained in Xinjiang, in the north west of China.

The other British individuals facing sanctions are Tory MPs Neil O’Brien, Tim Loughton, and Nusrat Ghani; peers Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy; lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, and academic Jo Smith Finley.

In their legal opinion published in February, lawyers from Essex Court Chambers wrote: "There is a very credible case that crimes against humanity of enslavement, torture, rape, enforced sterilisation and persecution and the crime of genocide, are being committed against the Uighur population".

China has repeatedly denied the accusations and says the camps are voluntary training centres.

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