China hits back at EU’s latest move over Xinjiang by sanctioning 10 individuals and 4 entities
Published: Mar 22, 2021 09:17 PM


Shortly after European Union foreign ministers signed off on a slate of punitive measures on Monday over alleged human rights abuses, including sanctions directed at China, China hit back with tit-for-tat countermeasures by sanctioning 10 individuals and four entities that have spread rumors and lies about Xinjiang. 

The Council of the European Union announced on Monday to impose restrictive measures on four Chinese nationals and one entity, as a reaction to the alleged mistreatment by China of its minority Uygur population in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, including some senior officials of the 13th People's Congress of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. 

This marks the EU's first sanctions against China in 30 years, a move observers said will deal a heavy blow to bilateral relations between the two sides.

This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, disregards and distorts facts, grossly interferes in China's internal affairs, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, and severely undermines China-EU relations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued shortly after the EU announcement. And China firmly opposes and strongly condemns this, the statement read.

Ten individuals sanctioned by the Chinese government include Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with China, and Michael Gahler, chair of European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group, in addition to some members of the European Parliament affiliated with the parliaments of EU member countries such as Germany, Belgium, Lithuania and the Netherlands. 

German scholar Adrian Zenz, an infamous anti-China pseudo-researcher who has been spreading rumors about Xinjiang and stepping up a disinformation campaign against China, and some other think tanks engaged in the disinformation campaign have also been put on China's sanction list. 

Those members of the parliaments shared some common ground in either criticizing China's internal affairs including Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong or pointing fingers at the country's human rights issues.

For example, Bütikofer has criticized the EU-China investment treaty signed in 2020, mentioning human rights issues related to China. Gahler interfered in the Taiwan question, claiming that Taiwan needs Europe's assistance and attacked China's policies toward the island by saying they posed a danger to regional stability. French MEP Rapha?l Glucksmann, who is on China's sanction list, also gained fame by pointing fingers at China's Xinjiang affairs and the situation of the Uygurs in the autonomous region.

The individuals concerned and their families are prohibited from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, according to the Chinese authorities. And the companies and institutions associated with them are also restricted from doing business with China.

The Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union, Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Germany, and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark have also been sanctioned by the Chinese government. 

The number of individuals and entities that China has put onto the sanction list has far outnumbered that of the EU, which showed China's resolute determination of defending its core interests and unswervingly fighting against the disinformation and smear campaign concerning China's policies and internal affairs, Wang Jiang, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday. 

"It also demonstrated that the Chinese government won't sit idly by in the face of unilateral and unreasonable moves. When it's time to take action, China will respond in a strong way," Wang said. 

Compared with the previous sanctions imposed by Europe, China's sanctions are stronger and more extensive, at least in terms of the scope of the sanctioned subjects, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times.

The list expands from the key figures who have been challenging China over the Xinjiang issue to those within the EU who have been repeatedly interfering in China's human rights affairs in various ways for a long time. Some of them don't have a direct say on Xinjiang, but have repeatedly challenged China on human rights, Cui said.

The sanctions are intended to send a strong warning signal to the EU, urging it to stop interfering in China's internal affairs, and not just in Xinjiang-related issues, Cui stressed.