EU, US, UK, Canada target China officials over Uyghur abuses

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European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell speaks to the media prior to a meeting of the European Foreign Affairs Ministers, at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Monday, March 22, 2021. (Aris Oikonomou, Pool Photo via AP)

BRUSSELS – The European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States on Monday launched coordinated sanctions against officials in China over human rights abuses in the far western Xinjiang region, provoking swift retaliation from Beijing.

The EU targeted four senior officials in Xinjiang. The sanctions involve a freeze on the officials’ assets and a ban on them traveling in the bloc. European citizens and companies are not permitted to provide them with financial assistance.

The 27-nation bloc also froze the assets of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, which it describes as a “state-owned economic and paramilitary organization” that runs Xinjiang and controls its economy.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the measures were part of “intensive diplomacy” by the U.K, the United States, Canada and the 27-nation EU to force action amid mounting evidence about serious rights abuses against the Uyghur Muslim people.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that “a united transatlantic response sends a strong signal to those who violate or abuse international human rights, and we will take further actions in coordination with likeminded partners."

“We will continue to stand with our allies around the world in calling for an immediate end to the PRC’s crimes and for justice for the many victims," Blinken said.

China responded immediately to the EU's move, slapping sanctions on 10 European individuals and four institutions that it said had damaged China’s interests and “maliciously spread lies and disinformation.”

Initially, China denied the existence of camps for detaining Uyghurs in Xinjiang but has since described them as centers to provide job training and to reeducate those exposed to radical jihadi thinking. Officials deny all charges of human rights abuses there.