The United States on Saturday condemned China’s sanctions against two American religious-rights officials and a Canadian lawmaker in a dispute over Beijing’s treatment of Uighur Muslims and other minorities.
China’s moves “only contribute to the growing international scrutiny of the ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang. We stand in solidarity with Canada, the UK, the EU, and other partners and allies around the world in calling on the (China) to end the human rights violations and abuses,” U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement.
Beijing’s sanctions followed those imposed by the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada earlier this week for what they say are violations of the rights of Uighur Muslims and other Turkic minorities in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
Activists and U.N. rights experts say at least a million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labor and sterilizations.
China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
Blinken’s statement came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced Beijing and vowed to defend human rights.
China sanctioned Canadian opposition lawmaker Michael Chong, vice-chair of parliament’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and its Subcommittee on International Human Rights, which this month presented a report concluding that atrocities in Xinjiang constitute crimes against humanity and genocide.
Beijing also said it will take measures against the chair and vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins.
The individuals under Beijing’s sanctions are banned from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, and Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from doing business with the three individuals or having any exchanges with the subcommittee.
“The Chinese government is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and urges the relevant parties to clearly understand the situation and redress their mistakes,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.
“They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form and refrain from going farther down the wrong path. Otherwise they will get their fingers burnt.”
China’s previous sanctions on U.S. individuals who it says have seriously undermined China’s sovereignty and interests on Xinjiang-related issues remain in effect.
In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Marc Garneau said called the sanctions “unacceptable” and an “attack on transparency and freedom of expression.”
“The Government of Canada stands with parliamentarians and all Canadians as we continue to work with partners in defence of democracy and freedom of speech and will continue to take action when international human rights obligations are violated,” Marc Garneau said in a statement released Saturday afternoon.
In a tweet Saturday morning, Chong said we have “a duty to all out China for its crackdown in #HongKong & its genocide of #Uyghurs.”
“We who live freely in democracies under the rule of law must speak for the voiceless,” he wrote. “If that means China sanctions me, I’ll wear it as a badge of honour.”
We who live freely in democracies under the rule of law must speak for the voiceless.
If that means China sanctions me, I’ll wear it as a badge of honour. pic.twitter.com/tS8MomWnun
— Michael Chong 🇨🇦 (@MichaelChongMP) March 27, 2021
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said the Canadian MPs who have been sanctioned by China have “used the freedom we enjoy as Canadians to call the world’s attention to the genocide against Uyghur Muslims in XinJiang.”
“I am proud of the work by MPs of all parties,” he wrote in a series of tweets.
O’Toole said Chong and Kenny Chiu “also show how Canadians with Chinese ancestry can stand as resolute critics of the repressive acts of the Communist Party while being proud of the rich Chinese history and culture.”
Member of Parliament Gary Vidal also tweeted his support.
“I proudly stand with my colleague @MichaelChongMP and the important work he is doing to call out Communist China’s human rights abuses,” he wrote.
Lynette Ong, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, called the announcement of the sanctions against Chong and the parliamentary committee “a historical low point” in Canada’s bilateral relationship with China.
The sanctions represent the first time China has ever taken such actions against a Canadian individual — a move Ong said will only “harden people’s resolve on those issues.”
“This has to be a multilateral effort, and by sanctioning individuals, individual politicians or individual policy makers in either country, it’s just going to invite backlash,” she said.
“It’s just counterproductive.”
— With files from Global News’ Emerald Bensadoun and Hannah Jackson
© 2021 Reuters