EU sanctions Chinese officials over treatment of Uyghurs
For the first time in three decades, the European Union has punished human rights abuses in China. The foreign ministers of the member states approved the adoption of sanctions against four actors responsible for the abuse of the minority Uyghurs. Many Western politicians call this treatment brutal. According to EU diplomacy, punished officials are directly responsible, for example, for arbitrary arrests or degrading treatment of this Muslim minority. Beijing has responded by retaliating against a group of EU officials.
European countries agreed on the first sanctions for human rights violations in China since the massacre of demonstrating students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. In response, the then European community banned arms exports to China; this ban still applies.
Among those punished, today is the head of the security office of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Chen Ming-kuo, a former leader of the ruling Communist Party in the area, Chu Hailoun, and two other leading officials in Wang Juncheng and Wang Mingshan provinces. All will have frozen assets in the EU and will not be allowed to travel within its territory. The Chinese society was responsible for the operation of detention centers. According to some Western countries, Uyghurs are subjected to torture, forced labor, and women forced to sterilize, was also punished.
EU diplomacy stated that the convicts had played an “active role in shaping and implementing Chinese policy in Xinjiang, which includes, among other things, large-scale arbitrary arrests, extensive surveillance, indoctrination, degrading treatment as well as violations of freedom of religion or belief.”
“We would like international observers to be allowed to visit this region in Xinjiang province … From our perspective, the situation is dire,” Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek told Czech journalists after the meeting. Together with colleagues from other EU countries, he also spoke today with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. They would like to assess the situation in the province in person. However, China refuses to let foreign observers into Xinjiang.
The Chinese authorities responded shortly after the publication of EU sanctions by imposing retaliatory sanctions. They include members of the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the EU, in which all Member States are represented. The list also consists of five MEPs and several European-critical European politicians and analysts.
The EU resorted to sanctions when the new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to visit Europe. The United States has adopted anti-Chinese sanctions earlier and calls China’s approach to the Uighurs a genocide. Washington wants to align its policy towards China with Brussels in the long run, but some EU countries are pushing for a more cautious approach due to trade interests.
The European bloc has used a new global sanctions regime to punish Chinese officials, allowing it to respond more flexibly to human rights violations anywhere in the world. Today, he also imposed similar punishments on two officials from Russian Chechnya for violating the rights of sexual minorities there. Five other people and two entities from North Korea, Libya, Eritrea, and South Sudan were also punished.