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UK hits back on Uighur treatment as China sanctions lawmakers

Published: Updated:

Britain on Friday accused China of attempting to “silence those highlighting human rights abuses” after Beijing sanctioned British lawmakers leading calls for action over its treatment of Uighur Muslims.

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“We condemn China’s attempt to silence those highlighting human rights abuses, at home and abroad, including UK MPs and peers,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a tweet.

“While the UK joins the international community to sanction human rights abuses, Chinese govt sanctions its critics,” he added.

China earlier Friday announced sanctions against nine UK individuals and four entities, saying they had “maliciously spread lies and disinformation” over Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs.

Raab called on Beijing to give the United Nations access to the region of Xinjiang if they “want to credibly rebut claims of human rights abuses”.

Those sanctioned include Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservative party, four groups which have been vocal in driving rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong onto Westminster’s agenda and a law firm which has taken up Uighur rights causes.

This photo taken on January 4, 2021 shows Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers assembling during military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang region. (AFP)
This photo taken on January 4, 2021 shows Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers assembling during military training at Pamir Mountains in Kashgar, northwestern China's Xinjiang region. (AFP)

Duncan Smith said it was “our duty to call out the Chinese government’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and their genocide of the Uighur people.

“Those of us who live free lives under the rule of law must speak for those who have no voice. If that brings the anger of China down upon me then I shall wear that as a badge of honor.”

The EU, UK, Canada and US sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic hierarchy this week in a coordinated action over allegations of widespread abuse in the northwestern region.

At least one million Uighurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps there, according to rights groups, who accuse authorities of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labor.

Tory MPs Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton, Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien and peers Helena Kennedy and David Alton are also on the list announced by China on Friday.

Ghani told BBC radio that she “won’t be intimidated”.

“This is a wake-up call for all democratic countries and lawmakers that we will not be able to conduct our day-to-day business without China sanctioning us for just attempting to expose what’s happening in Xinjiang and the abuse against the Uighurs.”

“This has now made me even more determined to speak out about the Uighurs.”

Read more:

China sanctions UK entities, individuals in retaliation over Xinjiang ‘lies’

China rejects Canada’s motion deeming treatment of Uighurs a genocide

China detaining Uighurs for wearing veil, growing beard: Leaked document