China sanctions UK entities, individuals for Xinjiang ‘lies’

File photo. A Burberry sign at a store in Oxford street in London, Britain, 6 September 2018. [Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA/EFE]

China sanctioned organisations and individuals in the United Kingdom on Friday (26 March) over what it called “lies and disinformation” about Xinjiang, days after Britain imposed sanctions for human rights abuses in the western Chinese region.

The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement it sanctioned four entities and nine individuals, including lawmakers such as former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, that “maliciously spread lies and disinformation.”

Targeted individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering Chinese territory, the ministry said, adding that Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them.

The move is a retaliation to a coordinated set of sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada against Beijing over what they say are human rights violations against the Uighur Muslim minorities in Xinjiang. Beijing has already applied retaliatory sanctions against the EU that were in line with Friday’s announcement.

“China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and warns the UK side not to go further down the wrong path,” the Chinese ministry said. “Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions.”

The British embassy in China did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

“It’s our duty to call out the Chinese Govt’s human rights abuse in #HongKong & the genocide of the #Uyghurs,” Smith, one of the lawmakers sanctioned by China on Friday, said on Twitter. “If that brings the anger of China down on me, I’ll wear that badge of honour.”

Activists and U.N. rights experts say at least 1 million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations. China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.

“It seems I am to be sanctioned by the PRC (Chinese) government for speaking the truth about the #Uyghur tragedy in #Xinjiang, and for having a conscience,” Jo Smith Finley, a Uighur expert at Newcastle University, said on Twitter.

“Well, so be it. I have no regrets for speaking out, and I will not be silenced.”

Burberry loses its Chines brand

Burberry has lost a Chinese brand ambassador and its hallmark tartan design was scrubbed from a popular video game, becoming the first luxury brand assailed by the Chinese backlash to Western accusations of abuses in Xinjiang.

Burberry is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, a group that promotes sustainable cotton production which said in October it was suspending its approval of cotton sourced from Xinjiang, citing human rights concerns.

Award-winning Chinese actress Zhou Dongyu terminated her contract with Burberry as the brand’s ambassador, as Burberry has not “clearly and publicly stated its stance on cotton from Xinjiang,” her agency said on Thursday.

The company’s iconic plaid design was also removed from the clothing worn by characters in Tencent Holdings Ltd’s wildly popular video game “Honor of Kings”, according to a post on the game’s official Weibo account, winning praise from China’s netizens.

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