China imposed sanctions on nine UK citizens, including five members of parliament, for spreading what it said were “lies and disinformation” about alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.
The nine named have been at the forefront of the year-long campaign calling for sanctions against China over the alleged mass rounding up of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
The move by China came in response to joint Western sanctions against Chinese officials in Xinjiang earlier this week over their alleged role in the region’s human rights abuses.
Britain, Canada, the United States and the European Union joined on Monday to announce travel bans and asset freezes against Chinese officials.
Boris Johnson said those sanctioned were “shining a light” on “gross human rights violations”.
“Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them,” the prime minister said in a tweet.
The UK foreign secretary said if Beijing wanted to “credibly rebut” the claims it should allow UN access to Xinjiang.
Those targeted by China include former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, two peers, a lawyer and an academic.
Sir Iain said he would wear the sanctions “as a badge of honour”.
The UN and human rights groups said China has detained Uyghurs at camps in the north-west region of Xinjiang, where allegations of torture, forced labour and sexual abuse have emerged.
China has denied the allegations of abuse, claiming the camps are “re-education” facilities used to combat terrorism.
They UK citizens who were sanctioned will all be banned from entering China, Hong Kong and Macau, their property in China will be frozen and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them.
Sir Iain said: “Those of us who live free lives under the rule of law must speak for those who have no voice. If that brings the anger of China down upon me then I shall wear that as a badge of honour.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the government “stands in total solidarity” with those sanctioned by China.
“It’s not going to stop them, it’s not going to stop the British government speaking up about the industrial scale human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang,” he told the BBC.
He added that China should allow access to Xinjiang for the United Nation’s commissioner for human rights if it wanted to continue with “blanket denials”. (Source: BBC)