BEIJING, China: China has imposed sanctions on nine UK citizens – including five MPs – for spreading what it called “lies and disinformation” about the country.
It comes in retaliation for measures taken by the UK government on Monday over human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority group.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith is among the MPs targeted, along with two peers, a lawyer and an academic.
He said he would wear the sanctions “as a badge of honour”.
The response by China follows similar sanctions imposed on the European Union, which was part of the coordinated action on Monday, along with the UK, the US and Canada.
China has detained Uighurs at camps in the north-west region of Xinjiang, where allegations of torture, forced labour and sexual abuse have emerged.
It has denied the allegations of abuse, claiming the camps are “re-education”
The nine people facing sanctions are Tory MPs Sir Iain, Tom Tugendhat, Neil O’Brien, Tim Loughton, and Nusrat Ghani; the peers Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy; a lawyer, Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, and an academic, Jo Smith Finley.
They will all be banned from entering China, Hong Kong and Macau, their property in China will be frozen and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain said: “It is our duty to call out the Chinese governments 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 honour.”
Academic Smith Finley tweeted: “I have no regrets for speaking out, and I will not be silenced.”
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said 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”.
He added that the Chinese Foreign Ministry had summoned the British Ambassador to China to “lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation”.
Geoffrey Nice, who prosecuted the former Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Milosevic and is chairing the Uyghur Tribunal – an independent tribunal set up to investigate whether the alleged rights abuses in Xinjiang constitute genocide – was also among the nine.
Nice is also a patron of Hong Kong Watch, a Hong Kong group advocating for the rights and freedoms of the Chinese territory. The group said the sanctions marked the end of the so-called “golden era” of UK-China relations.
“A regime that sanctions UK parliamentarians, barristers, academics and activists for the ‘crime’ of voicing out concern over human rights abuse cannot seriously be considered a partner to the UK or a supporter of the international rules-based order,” Hong Kong Watch said in a statement, noting that another of its patrons, David Alton, was also among the individuals sanctioned.
The Uyghur Tribunal, which is due to hold its first hearing in May, was one of the four groups targeted by China alongside the China Research Group, Conservative Party Human Rights Commission (CPHRC), and Essex Court Chambers.
In a tweet, the CPHRC said it was “honoured to have been sanctioned by the Chinese Communist Party regime, in recognition of its tireless work documenting the horrific human rights crisis in China.”