China has hit British institutions and MPs including former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith with sanctions in response to similar moves by the UK over the treatment of people in Xinjiang.
Britain, the US, Canada and the European Union slapped sanctions on Chinese officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses in the country’s autonomous north-west territory.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the abuse of the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang was “one of the worst human rights crises of our time” and the international community “cannot simply look the other way”.
But China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement early on Friday that the move by Raab was “based on nothing but lies and disinformation, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, and severely undermines China-UK relations”.
The ministry said it had sanctioned nine people and four British institutions “that maliciously spread lies and disinformation”.
Duncan Smith, Tory MP Neil O’Brien, Lord David Alton, Conservative MPs Tim Loughton and Nusrat Ghani, Labour’s Baroness Helena Kennedy, barrister Geoffrey Nice, Joanne Nicola Smith Finley, and chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat were the individuals sanctioned.
The groups were the China Research Group, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Uyghur Tribunal and Essex Court Chambers.
“As of today, the individuals concerned and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of China, their property in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them,” the ministry said, adding it “reserves the right to take further measures”.
The ministry also said it had summoned the UK’s ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, “to lodge solemn representations, expressing firm opposition and strong condemnation”.
Smith said he considered being the target of Chinese sanctions as a “badge of honour”.
He said: “It is 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 the I shall wear that as a badge of honour.”
Raab said: “It speaks volumes that, while the UK joins the international community in sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses, the Chinese government sanctions its critics.
“If Beijing want to credibly rebut claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it should allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights full access to verify the truth.”