On Monday (Mar. 22), the European Union imposed its first sanctions on China for human rights violations in Xinjiang province. The sanctions list includes four Xinjiang officials as well as the general security agency for Xinjiang’s production and construction corps. In additional to travel bans, assets of those on the sanctions list have been frozen. The united front also includes the United Kingdom, United States and Canada, which all have imposed their own sanctions for the repression and mass detentions of the Uighur minority. Australia and New Zealand published a joint statement on Monday praising the EU, US, UK and Canada for the measures.
China quickly hit back with counter-sanctions. On Monday (Mar. 22), China released its own sanctions list naming 10 individuals (including members of the European Parliament, scholars and diplomats) as well as EU Parliament’s subcommittee on human rights, the European Council’s political and security committee, the Mercator Institute in Germany and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark. Those on the list are banned from travel to mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao, and not allowed to take contact with persons in China. European Parliament president David Sassoli quickly responded, noting that China’s imposition of retaliatory sanctions will have their own consequences. It seems clear that the finalisation of the investment agreement between the EU and China will now be at least protracted.
The sanctions against China are the first imposed by the EU and UK in over 30 years, when arms exports to China were banned in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. The US imposed its first sanctions for human rights violations in Xinjiang last July. In 2020, the US imposed further sanctions on a number of Chinese officials for the crackdown on Hong Kong democracy.