03/26/2021, 11.22
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Uyghur repression: Beijing counter sanctions London

Nine British citizens and four organisations that denounced human rights violations in Xinjiang targeted. On March 22, the Chinese sanctioned European Union personalities and institutions. China responds to punitive measures from the US, Europe, the UK and Canada. London and the EU see Beijing as a "systemic" threat.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - China today adopted sanctions against nine British citizens accused of spreading "falsehoods" about the situation in Xinjiang, in the second round of punitive measures decided by Beijing this week.

The first came on March 22, shortly after the US, the European Union, Britain and Canada imposed sanctions on four senior officials and a government body for violating human rights in the Chinese autonomous region. The Chinese government responded with punitive countermeasures against EU bodies, MEPs, politicians, academics and European research centres.

The targeted British personalities sanctioned by Beijing include five MPs, among them Iain Duncan Smith, former Conservatives leader (see photo). All are part of the Interparliamentary Alliance on China, which brings together legislators from different countries.

Four groups that denounced the repression of Uyghurs and other Turkish-speaking minorities of Islamic faith in Xinjiang were also affected. The sanctioned persons will not be able to enter China, Hong Kong or Macao; their assets on Chinese territory will be frozen; they will then not be able to have business relations with Chinese citizens and institutions.

According to expert data, confirmed by the United Nations, the Chinese authorities hold or have detained over one million Muslims in concentration camps in Xinjiang, which Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz call "East Turkestan".

Recent media revelations have also highlighted the existence of labour camps in the Chinese autonomous region, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims are reportedly used as forced labour especially in the cotton harvest.

According to German researcher Adrian Zenz, there are textile factories built next to internment camps in Xinjiang: satellite images, says the academic, show masses of people in uniform moving from one site to another.

The Chinese reject all charges and claim that the camps in Xinjiang are vocational training centres and projects for poverty reduction, the fight against terrorism and separatism.

Beijing justified the measures against British citizens and organisations saying that in turn the UK's decision to impose sanctions "flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China's internal affairs, and severely undermines China-UK relations."

In his recent foreign policy paper, Boris Johnson's government described the Asian giant as a "systemic competitor" and "the biggest state-based threat to the UK's economic security." It is the same vision adopted by the EU, which has not yet prepared a counter-response to the Chinese sanctions, limiting itself for the moment to declarations of protest.

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