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EU agrees China sanctions over human rights abuses

March 17, 2021

EU ambassadors have agreed on a list of persons and entities to be sanctioned for human rights abuses, including ones committed against China's Uighur minority.

High-security facility in Xinjiang, China
Many thousands of Uighurs are believed to be imprisoned in 're-education centers' like thisImage: AFP/G. Baker

The European Union's 27 ambassadors agreed on Wednesday to impose new sanctions on individuals from China and other countries over human rights abuses, two EU diplomats have said.

They will be the first sanctions against Beijing since an EU arms embargo in 1989 following the Tiananmen Square crackdown. The embargo is still in place.

China is the EU's second-largest trading partner.

The bloc's foreign ministers are expected to formally approve the sanctions on Monday. 

Who is on the list?

The ambassadors have assembled a list of 11 names of individuals and entities to be hit by travel bans and asset freezes. It includes four Chinese officials and one entity accused of human rights abuses against China's Uighur Muslim minority, but will not be published until formal approval is given, EU diplomats said.

The lists also include officials from Russia, Libya, South Sudan and North Korea, diplomats said.

The agreement on sanctions comes after a planned visit by EU ambassadors to China's Xinjiang region, where the Uighurs largely live, was refused permission over a request to see jailed Uighur academic Ilham Tohti.

Tohti, an economist who received the EU's top human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, in 2019, was imprisoned for life on separatism charges in 2014.

Muslim tells story of internment

Why has China so far not approved the visit?

China's ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, said on Tuesday that "almost everything had been arranged" for the ambassadors' visit but that "unacceptable requests" had led to snags.
"They insist on a meeting with one criminal convicted by Chinese law," he said. "This is unacceptable; I'm so sorry."

China strongly denies allegations that it has been repressing and mistreating Uighurs in Xinjiang, among other things by incarcerating them in "reeducation centers" that have been compared with prison camps.

tj/rt (Reuters, AFP)