Reinhard Bütikofer wants Chen Quanguo, architect of the internment camps for Uyghurs, punished under the new EU mechanism for the protection of human rights. Discussions will start shortly on a list of offenders. For several observers, the European bloc must move from words to deeds.
Brussels (AsiaNews) – "I consider Chen Quanguo, the Chinese Communist Party Secretary in Xinjiang, the most outstanding candidate for application of the new EU mechanism for the protection of human rights” said Reinhard Bütikofer, head of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with China, speaking to AsiaNews. The EU legislative branch adopted the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime on Monday.
Inspired by Magnitsky Act, a law passed by the US Congress, the new sanctions scheme allows the EU to target individuals and entities responsible for serious human rights violations. It includes a travel ban to the EU and freeze on any assets sanctioned individuals hold in the bloc's member countries.
An EU spokesperson told AsiaNews that no one has yet been targeted. The European Council will shortly start discussions to draw a list of individuals to be sanctioned, whose approval must be unanimous.
For Bütikofer it is now important to actually apply the penalties. “Members of the European Parliament will work with the Commission and with member states' governments who are responsible for proposing human rights violators to be targeted,” he said. “We also count on public opinion to play a major role in making sure that the new instrument will indeed be used without hesitation.”
Chen Quanguo is accused of organising a system of internment camps to control the Uyghur population. According to expert data, confirmed by the United Nations, over a million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslim groups have been arbitrarily detained in Xinjiang, which the local population calls East Turkestan. Chen had already imposed an intrusive social control system on the people of Tibet, where he was party secretary from 2011 to 2016.
China’s treatment of Uyghurs has been a source of disagreement with the European Union. The bloc and China have been at loggerheads over the latter’s failure to respect human rights. The EU says it supports the rule of law in China, the development of civil society, and freedom of expression, association, and religion.
In addition to the violations in Xinjiang, Europeans have expressed concern about the situation in Hong Kong and Tibet, and the crackdown on human rights activists in mainland China itself. However, several observers point out that EU leaders have so far taken no effective action against the Chinese regime's human rights abuses.