A Scottish lawyer has been sanctioned by China along with five UK MPs in retaliation to action taken against Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses.
Baroness Helena Kennedy, a barrister and expert in human rights law, is co-chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC).
This week, the UK, US, Canadian, and EU Governments sanctioned Beijing officials over allegations of abuses against China’s Uighur population – a Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said: “This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, and severely undermines China-UK relations.”
Baroness Kennedy said: “The Chinese Government attempts to silence all those who shine a light on the horrific abuses faced by the Uighur and other peoples in China.
“I am urgently seeking meetings with ministers to discuss what actions can be taken to defend the right of parliamentarians, academics and others to speak out without intimidation, fear or harassment.”
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the mass detention of the Uighurs was the largest of any ethnic or religious group since the Second World War.
He told the House of Commons: “Over a million people have been detained without trial, there are widespread claims of torture and rape in the camps, based on first-hand survivor testimony.
“People are detained for having too many children, for praying too much, for having a beard or wearing a headscarf, for having the wrong thoughts.”
Along with Baroness Kennedy, former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, peer Lord Alton, and Tory MPs Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton, Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien, have all been sanctioned by Beijing.
Lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice QC, who chairs a tribunal investigating the atrocities against the Uighurs, and Newcastle University academic Jo Smith Finely have also both been banned.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the British individuals would be prohibited from entering the mainland or Hong Kong and any property in CHina would be frozen. They are also banned from doing any business with Chinese citizens.
A spokesperson said: “China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and warns the UK side not go further down the wrong path. Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions.”
The IPAC, an international cross-party group of legislators aiming to reform how democracies interact with China, said the Beijing Government had announced the retaliatory sanctions against those who have spoken out on the persecution of Uighurs and other minorities.
A statement from the group said: “The Chinese Government has once against demonstrated that it can brook no criticism. We vow to continue to do all in our power to speak out for those oppressed by the rule of the Chinese Communist Party.”
Responding to China’s move Raab said: “It speaks volumes that, while the UK joins the international community in sanctioning those responsible for human rights abuses, the Chinese government sanctions its critics.
“If Beijing want to credibly rebut claims of human rights abuses in Xinjiang, it should allow the UN high commissioner for human rights full access to verify the truth.”