China has imposed sanctions on nine UK individuals — including five Tory MPs — for spreading what it calls “lies and disinformation” about human rights abuses in the country.
The Chinese foreign ministry today said it had sanctioned four organisations and nine individuals, including Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and the party’s Human Rights Commission.
The other individuals named were Tory MPs Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien — who lead the China Research Group — Nusrat Ghani and Tim Loughton, as well as peers Baroness Kennedy and Lord Alton. Lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice, who chairs the Uighur Tribunal and Newcastle University academic Jo Smith Finley were also on the list.
The other entities named are the China Research Group, the Uyghur Tribunal and Essex Court Chambers.
Under the sanctions, the individuals and their families are banned from entering China and doing business in the country.
Duncan Smith said he would wear the sanctions as a “badge of honour”.
It comes after Britain, alongside the US, EU and Canada, imposed sanctions on China over human rights violations against the Uighur Muslim community in Xinjiang.
Chinese authorities have detained Uighurs in internment camps, where they are accused of carrying out torture and forced labour. Beijing has denied the allegations, describing the camps as “re-education centres”.
In a statement today foreign secretary Dominic 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 wants 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.”
It came as fashion retailers were dragged into the row over sanctions, coming under fire on social media for past statements over human rights abuses.
Burberry became the first company to be hit by the backlash after a famous Chinese actor cut ties with the company over its stance on Xinjiang.
Zhou Dongyu terminated her contract as a brand ambassador for Burberry over the British firm’s membership of the Better Cotton Initiative, which in October said it was suspending its approval of cotton sourced from Xinjiang, citing human rights abuses.
The actor’s agency said Burberry had not “clearly and publicly stated its stance on cotton from Xinjiang”.
The luxury brand’s iconic plaid design was also removed from clothes worn by characters in Tencent’s hit video game Honour of Kings.
H&M, Nike and Adidas are among other brands that have also been caught up in the dispute.