China summoned the ambassador of the European Union (EU) in Beijing, Nicolas Chapuis, to present a formal complaint about sanctions that Brussels imposed on Chinese officials on Monday for alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang autonomous region, the Chinese Foreign Ministry reported today. Vice Minister Qin Gang condemned in a statement what he considers “unilateral sanctions based on lies and false news inconsistent with reality and the law” that yesterday provoked sanctions in response by China to ten people, including five MEPs, and four institutions . Qin urged the EU to “recognize the seriousness of its mistakes and correct them”, as well as to “abandon the confrontation so as not to cause further damage to the ties between the two blocs.”
The EU sanctions, the first it has taken against China since the Tiananmen massacre on July 4, 1989, consist of freezing four Chinese officials of assets in the EU and a ban from entering EU territory, while at the same time any entity of the Union is prevented from making Community funds available to the sanctioned, directly or indirectly. For its part, the EU described Monday as “unacceptable” and “regrettable” China’s decision to sanction individuals and institutions of the Twenty-seven in response to the Brussels action. Among those sanctioned by Beijing, who will not be able to enter the Asian country, are the German MEPs Reinhard Bütikofer and Michael Gahler, the French Raphaël Glucksmann, the Bulgarian Ilhan Kyuchuk and the Slovak Miriam Lexmann, in addition to other politicians, researchers and four institutions . Also on the sanctioned list are MPs Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma, from the Netherlands; the Belgian Samuel Cogolati and the Lithuanian Dovile Sakaliene, as well as the German researcher Adrian Zenz – responsible for controversial reports on Xinjiang – and the Swede Bjorn Jerden.
China has reiterated on multiple occasions that the reports on Xinjiang prepared by Zenz are “absolute fallacies”, and last week it already warned the EU that imposing sanctions on the Asian country based on its claims would have consequences. The anthropologist’s reports – who assures that in that northwestern region of China he undergoes forced labor and sterilizations and even genocide– have been published by various Western media and have served as the basis for other recent studies, such as the one recently published by the US-based Newlines Institute.
In any case, the sanctions open a diplomatic conflict with unforeseeable consequences and reiterate that Beijing is not willing to compromise on what it considers to be its internal affairs. In that sense, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, yesterday criticized China for “turning a blind eye instead of changing its policies and addressing our legitimate concerns.” The Spanish politician added that there will be “no change in the determination of the European Union to defend human rights and to respond to serious violations and abuses regardless of where they are committed.”
Following the announcement of the EU sanctions, other countries, such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, adopted their own restrictive measures against Beijing for the alleged human rights abuses in the treatment of Uyghurs, an ethnic minority of majority Muslim faith in Xinjiang.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.