Why Western powers are imposing sanctions against China?
Western powers including the United States, Britain, and the EU have imposed sanctions against China over human rights abuses against Uighur Muslims.
The European Union (EU), the United States, Canada, and Britain, in a coordinated manner on Monday, have announced sanctions against Chinese officials and entities over human rights abuses against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province, China.
The EU was the first major Western power to imposes travel bans and asset freezes against four Chinese officials for running internment camps for thousands of Uighurs. The EU imposed sanctions against Zhu Hailun, former deputy Communist Party head in Xinjiang, Wang Junzheng, party secretary of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Wang Mingshan, member of the Xinjiang’s Communist Party standing committee, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (PSB). The individuals will not be able to travel to the regions in the EU. Residents and companies have been barred from doing any business with the sanctioned individuals.
Following the EU’s action, the United States, Canada, and the UK mirrored similar sanctions against the Chinese officials. Foreign Ministries of Canada and Britain also issued statements, condemning the treatment of Uighurs in China, calling it “one of the worst human rights crises of our time”.
Describing China’s actions against Uighurs as genocide, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said, “The United States reiterates its calls on the PRC (People’s Republic of China) to bring an end to the repression of Uyghurs, who are predominantly Muslim, and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups in Xinjiang, including by releasing all those arbitrarily held in internment camps and detention facilities."
Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday also voiced their grave concerns about the credible reports of human rights abuses against Uighurs. “There is clear evidence of severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labor and forced birth control,” said Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta in a joint statement.
The move is being considered as a symbolic joint effort by various countries as hardening of stance against Beijing’s repression of Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. This will also be the first time since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 when the major Western powers are trying to punish China on human rights grounds. It can also be seen as a unified show of force to put pressure on China and isolate it. The US has also pointed that going forward it would act jointly to counter China as US officials believe that it is more likely to have an impact on Beijing rather than a one-on-one approach.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the multi-national measures were part of intensive diplomacy by the UK, the United States, Canada, and the 27-nation EU to force action amid mounting evidence of serious rights abuses against Uighurs.
China has responded almost on similar lines, upping the ante against the EU. Beijing has imposed travel bans on 10 EU officials and four entities. They will be banned from entering mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau. It also summoned foreign diplomats in protest after the United States, the European Union, Canada, and Britain on Tuesday.
“The new sanctions are slander and an affront to the reputation and dignity of the Chinese people. I admonish them that they should not underestimate the firm determination of the Chinese people to defend their national interests and dignity, and they will pay the price for their folly and arrogance,” Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told reporters at a daily briefing.
Among those who have been barred from entry into China are Members of the European Parliament that have criticised Beijing’s policy, such as French MEP Raphaël Glucksmann, German scholar Adrian Zenz and Swedish analyst Björn Jerdén.
Beijing said the EU measures were “based on nothing but lies and disinformation”, adding that they “severely” undermined its ties with the European bloc.
Who are Uighurs?
Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority in China, mainly living in North-Western region of Xinjiang and are a recognised as native to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
According to the reports, there are about 12 million Uighur Muslims and makeup half of the Xinjiang population. It is believed that there has been a mass migration of Han Chinese, which is an ethnic majority group in China and considered to be 92 per cent of the entire Chinese population.
A UN human rights committee in 2018 said that the Chinese were holding up to a million people in "counter-extremism centers" in Xinjiang.
China has been accused of forcibly mass sterilizing Uighur women to suppress the population and separating Uighur children from their families. It has also been accused of putting over a million people in internment camps to “de-Muslimise” them and make them integrate better in the Communist country.
Meanwhile, China has claimed that they are making renewed efforts to de-radicalise the Uighurs and provide them with skill training so that they stay away from extremism.