The foreign ministers of the 27 EU member states decided at a meeting on sanctions for human rights violations in China. These are the first EU sanctions for human rights violations in more than 30 years. The punitive measures are directed against those responsible for the suppression of the Muslim Uyghur minority in the Chinese region of Xinjiang.
The sanctions provide that all assets of the natural or legal persons concerned are frozen. In addition, no more money or economic resources may be made available to them. They are now also banned from entering the EU. The names of those affected are to be published in the EU Official Journal shortly.
It is eagerly awaited how China will react to the decision. The Chinese EU ambassador Zhang Ming had recently sharply criticized the EU plans. “Sanctions are confrontational,” he said. His country wants dialogue, but will not back down if others insist on confrontation.
Such sanctions were last introduced in 1989
The EU last imposed punitive measures against China for human rights violations after the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989. They include, among other things, an arms embargo that still applies today. Hundreds of people died in the bloody crackdown on the democracy movement when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed against peaceful demonstrators. The exact number is not known to this day.
Last year Beijing had already expressed “deeply concerned” about EU sanctions that were imposed on a company and two hackers from China for cyberattacks. According to the EU, those affected attacked information systems of multinational companies around the world.
The new sanctions have now been decided because of the Chinese way of dealing with the Uyghurs. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Hui and members of other minorities have been sent to re-education camps in Xinjiang. Germany has long criticized China’s dealings with the Uyghurs. China, however, rejects the allegations and speaks of training centers.
Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking ethnic group and are oppressed by the ruling Han Chinese in Xinjiang. After taking power in Beijing in 1949, the communists incorporated the former East Turkestan into the People’s Republic. Beijing accuses Uighur groups of terrorism.