China sanctions US, Canadian citizens in Xinjiang row

China sanctions US, Canadian citizens in Xinjiang row

  • At least one million Uyghurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in Xinjiang, rights groups say
  • China's national flag flies at a court where a Canadian national's trial has opened on espionage charges

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China sanctions US, Canadian citizens in Xinjiang row

At least one million Uyghurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in Xinjiang, rights groups say ·3 min read

  • Michael Chong
  • Marc Garneau

China announced tit-for-tat sanctions against two Americans, a Canadian and a rights advocacy body Saturday, in response to sanctions imposed earlier this week by the two countries over Beijing’s treatment of Uyghurs.

Two members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins, as well as Canadian MP Michael Chong, and a Canadian parliamentary committee on human rights, are prohibited from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Chong reacted by calling the sanctions a “badge of honour.”

“We’ve got a duty to call out China for its crackdown in #HongKong & its genocide of #Uyghurs,” Chong wrote on Twitter. “We who live freely in democracies under the rule of law must speak for the voiceless.”

At least one million Uyghurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in northwestern Xinjiang, according to rights groups, who accuse authorities of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.

The European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States sanctioned several members of Xinjiang’s political and economic hierarchy this week in coordinated action over the allegations, prompting retaliation from Beijing in the form of sanctions on individuals from the EU and Britain.

China’s foreign ministry Saturday accused the US and Canada of imposing sanctions “based on rumours and disinformation.”

The sanctioned officials, who are also banned from conducting business with Chinese citizens and institutions, “must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form,” the ministry said.

“Otherwise, they will get their fingers burnt,” the foreign ministry statement warned.

Top Canadian diplomat Marc Garneau accused Beijing on Saturday of deploying heavy-handed tactics.

“Bullies don’t change unless you send very clear messages to them,” Garneau told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

“That message is going to be given to China, more and more as we move forward,” he added, noting that “additional measures” could be considered.

The interview was recorded before Beijing had announced its tit-for-tat sanctions.

– Consumer boycotts –

The diplomatic standoff spilled over into the fashion world this week when pledges made last year by several companies to boycott Xinjiang cotton resurfaced this week on Chinese-owned social network Weibo, triggering additional controversy.

The resurfacing of the pledges, which were made by the likes of Sweden’s H&M, American sportswear giant Nike, Germany’s Adidas and Japan’s Uniqlo, was denounced Friday by the United States, which implied the timely reappearance was a calculated move by Beijing.

“The US condemns the PRC… social media campaign and corporate and consumer boycott against companies, including American, European and Japanese businesses,” the US State Department’s deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

Chinese celebrities and tech firms have already waded in, pulling partnerships with companies ranging from Nike and H&M to Adidas, Burberry and Calvin Klein.

Beijing, which insists Xinjiang is an “internal affair”, had announced sanctions Friday against nine British individuals and four entities, saying they had “maliciously spread lies and disinformation” over the treatment of Uyghurs.

China flatly denies any abuses in the region, describing detention centers there as work camps intended to boost incomes and deter extremism in a region made restive by central control.

China previously sanctioned dozens of US officials including former secretary of state Mike Pompeo for “crazy moves” against Beijing under the Trump administration.

Meanwhile Canada-China relations are at their lowest point in decades, with China trying two Canadians for alleged espionage this month while an extradition hearing in Vancouver for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou enters its final months.