The EU states have agreed for the first time on sanctions against China for the action against the Muslim minority of the Uyghurs. As the news agency AFP learned from diplomats, the ambassadors of the member states gave the green light on Wednesday for a package of sanctions on human rights violations in six countries. In the case of China, four political representatives and an organization from Xinjiang Province are to be placed on the EU sanctions list.
According to human rights organizations, at least one million Uyghurs and other Muslims are imprisoned in hundreds of detention camps in Xinjiang. There they are reportedly being forced to give up their religion, culture and language, and in some cases also mistreated. Beijing rejects the allegations and speaks of training and work programs aimed at combating extremism in the regions.
These are the first sanctions against China for human rights violations since the crackdown on the protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. An arms embargo has been in place since then. In July of last year, the EU then also imposed sanctions for cyber attacks. Two Chinese and one Chinese company were affected.
The Chinese government this week warned the EU of sanctions against the Uyghurs. Beijing will see this as a “confrontation,” said Chinese ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, on Tuesday. “Sanctions based on lies could be interpreted as an attempt to deliberately undermine China’s security.”
The Greens welcomed the sanctions against China at EU level: “As long as the situation of this oppressed minority does not fundamentally change, the international community must continue to stand up for their rights. For this reason, we only discussed how to deal with China and in particular the situation of the Uyghurs in the Foreign Policy Committee (of the National Council, note) yesterday.
Brussels does not want to publish precise information about those affected by the sanctions until it has been formally decided on the sidelines of the EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Monday. According to diplomats, there should no longer be any discussion of the unanimous decision of the EU ambassadors. The sanctions will then come into force when they are published in the EU Official Journal.
The EU only adopted a legal framework for the sanctions in December, through which human rights violations are to be better punished worldwide. In addition to China, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Russia and South Sudan are also affected by the decision.
Overall, according to AFP information, the EU states want to put around a dozen people and several organizations on the EU sanctions list. In the case of Russia, it is reportedly about human rights violations in Chechnya.
The sanctions impose entry bans on those responsible for human rights violations and freeze their possible assets in the EU. Organizations or companies also have funds blocked and business with them prohibited.
For the first time, the EU used its new human rights sanctions in early March in the case of the arrested Russian opposition activist Alexej Navalny. Four senior representatives of the Russian judicial and law enforcement system were put on the EU sanctions list.