The European Union envoys agreed on Wednesday to blacklist Chinese officials for human rights abuses, two diplomats said. The first sanctions against Beijing since an EU arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
EU ambassadors approved the travel bans and asset freezes on four Chinese individuals and one entity, whose names will not be made public until formal approval by EU foreign ministers on March 22, as part of a new and wider rights sanctions list.
The Chinese officials were accused of human rights abuses against China’s Uighur Muslim minority, EU diplomats told to a news agency.
The diplomats said the move reflected deep concern about the Uighurs in Europe, the United States and Canada. The EU last sanctioned China, its second-largest trade partner, in June 1989, imposing an arms embargo on Beijing that is still in place.
Activists and UN rights experts say at least one million Muslims are being detained in camps in the remote western region of Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations against the people of the region.
The Dutch parliament followed Canada and the United States in labelling China’s treatment of the Uighur’s genocide, which China rejects.
The Chinese mission to the EU republished comments on the new sanctions made on Tuesday by China’s ambassador to the bloc, Zhang Ming, saying that Beijing would not change its policies.
“Sanctions are confrontational,” the Chinese mission said. “We want dialogue, not confrontation. We ask the EU side to think twice. If some insist on confrontation, we will not back down, as we have no options other than fulfilling our responsibilities to the people” the Chinese mission quoted.
China denies any human rights abuses in Xinjiang and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to “fight extremism” which most of the countries and human rights agencies have denied saying that is a concentration camp meant to torture and traumatize people of the Uighur community.