Uighurs: Western countries sanction China over rights abuses


China has created a sprawling network of detention camps for minorities in the Xinjiang region [Reuters]

Several Western countries have announced sanctions against officials in China over rights abuses against the mostly Muslim Uighur minority group.


China has detained Uighurs at camps in the north-west region of Xinjiang and faces accusations of torture, forced labour and sexual abuse.


The sanctions were announced as part of a coordinated effort by the European Union, UK, Canada and the US.


China responded with its own sanctions against European officials.


The Chinese government has denied the allegations of abuse, claiming the camps in Xinjiang are "re-education" facilities being used to combat terrorism.


But UK 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".


He said the treatment of Uighurs amounted to "appalling violations of the most basic human rights".


The EU has not imposed new sanctions on China over human rights abuses since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, when troops in Beijing opened fire on pro-democracy protesters.


What do we know about the sanctions?


The sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, target senior officials in Xinjiang who have been accused of responsibility for abuses against Uighurs.


Human rights groups say China has detained more than a million Uighurs and people from other Muslim minority groups at camps in Xinjiang.


The Chinese government has been accused of carrying out forced sterilisations on Uighur women and separating children from their families. BBC investigations have contained first-hand testimony of forced labour and systematic rape, sexual abuse and torture of detainees.


Those hit with sanctions include Chen Mingguo, the director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, who the EU said was responsible for "serious human rights violations"; senior Chinese officials Wang Mingshan and Wang Junzheng; and the former deputy party secretary in Xinjiang, Zhu Hailun. One entity, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, was also sanctioned.


Xinjiang's top official, Chen Quanguo, was not on the list.


China on Monday said the sanctions were "based on nothing but lies and disinformation". It said it would sanction 10 people and four entities in the EU "that severely harm China's sovereignty and interests and maliciously spread lies and disinformation" in response.


German politician Reinhard Butikofer, who chairs the European Parliament's delegation to China, was among the most high profile officials on China's list. Adrian Zenz, a leading expert on China's policies in Xinjiang, and Swedish scholar Bjorn Jerden were also targeted.


Under the sanctions, the European officials are barred from entering China or doing business with it. The sanctions mark a rare escalation of diplomatic tensions between the EU and China, which are major trading partners.


© BBC News

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