The UK has imposed sanctions on Chinese businesses in retaliation to the country’s “horrific” and “harrowing” treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the province of Xinjiang.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced today that the government would launch a review into which UK products can be exported to Xinjiang and introduce financial penalties for Chinese firms that do not comply with the Modern Slavery Act.
The sanctions will also see UK public bodies exclude businesses complicit in human rights violations from their supply chains.
An estimated 1m Uyghur Muslims have been detained by the Chinese government and put into labour camps in Xinjiang.
There have also been widespread reports of sterilisation of Uyghur women and the wholesale destruction of mosques.
Raab told MPs today that the evidence for these actions against Uyghur Mulisms was overwhelming and that the UK had “a moral duty to respond”.
“Internment camps, arbitrary detention, political reeducation, fored labour, torture and forced sterlilisation – all on an industrial scale,” Raab said.
“It is truly horrific. Barbarism we had hoped lost to another era practiced today as we speak by one of the leading members of the international community.”
The new sanctions are the latest escalation in growing tensions between the UK and China.
The UK earlier this year sanctioned Hong Kong for new draconian national security legislation imposed by Beijing on the region.
Raab censured the Chinese government for its actions and offered visas to millions of Hong Kongers as he declared the new laws violated the British-Sino treaty.
The UK government also banned Huawei from taking part in building new 5G infrastructure from 2027 due to concerns Beijing would use the network to spy on British citizens, a claim Huawei denies.
Neil O’Brien, co-founder of the Tory backbench China Research Group, said: “Today’s announcement represents an important step in the UK government’s recognition of the Chinese Communist Party’s increasing internal repression.
“We now need to see a much more joined-up approach in government towards China.”