China's ban on MPs in retaliation over Uighur human rights abuse sanctions is 'sign of weakness' says Raab

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

The foreign secretary has branded China's move to sanction British MPs as a "sign of weakness" from Beijing.

The country has imposed sanctions on nine British individuals - including five MPs - in retaliation to the UK placing restrictions on Chinese officials accused of human rights abuses on the Uighur population.

On Friday, the prime minister said he "stands firmly" with the MPs targeted.

Boris Johnson tweeted: "The MPs and other British citizens sanctioned by China today are performing a vital role shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims.

"Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them."

Dominic Raab said the sanctions would not stop Britain from speaking out about the "industrial-scale human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang".

He told broadcasters on Friday: "We stand in total solidarity with the nine individuals who were sanctioned today.

“It is not going to stop them, it is not going to stop the British government from speaking up about the industrial-scale human rights abuses taking place in Xinjiang.

"If the Chinese government want to continue with these blanket denials that anything wrong is taking place in Xinjiang, the obvious thing for them to do would be to allow access to the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet.

"As long as they continue to resist and refuse to do so, the international pressure will only continue to grow."

Mr Raab added that the Chinese ambassador would be summoned over the decision to apply sanctions and that the actions were a "sign of weakness" from Beijing.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in the UK said on Friday "lies of the century" were being spread about what was going on in Xinjiang and criticised the UK’s deployment of sanctions.

He told a press briefing on Friday: "Human rights in Xinjiang cannot be defined by a few satellite images, fake reports cobbled together by people thousands of miles away."

Britain’s ambassador to China has been summoned for a diplomatic protest, the statement said.

A protester from the Uighur community holds an anti-China placard during a protest in Turkey. Credit: AP

Sanctioned individuals and groups would be barred from visiting Chinese territory and banned from having financial transactions with Chinese citizens and institutions.

Nine British individuals and four institutions were placed on the sanctions list, including MP Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, and that party’s Human Rights Commission.

Others included politicians, scholars and human rights activists Tom Tugendhat, Neil O’Brien, David Alton, Tim Loughton, Nusrat Ghani, Helena Kennedy, Geoffrey Nice and Joanne Nicola Smith Finley.

The MPs, members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC), issued a statement in response.

It said: "IPAC is united in condemnation of the Chinese government's repeated moves to silence our members. The China government has once again demonstrated that it can brook no criticism."

Iain Duncan Smith added that he considered being the target of Chinese sanctions as a “badge of honour”.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith described criticism of Dominic Raab as ‘childish and pathetic’ Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

He said: “It is our duty to call out the Chinese government’s human rights abuses in Hong Kong and their genocide of the Uighur people.

“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 the I shall wear that as a badge of honour.”

China’s sanctions are the latest move in an increasingly bitter row over Xinjiang.

Beijing is accused of detaining more than one million members of Uighur and other Muslim minority groups there, engaging in forced labour and imposing coercive birth control measures.

ITV News has repeatedly reported on the plight of the Uighur population in China, documenting accounts of torture, forced abortion, and missing people.

Last year the US State Department told China to end its "campaign of repression" against Uighurs following an ITV News investigation.

Chinese state TV on Thursday called for a boycott of Swedish retail chain H&M, as Beijing lashed out at foreign clothing and footwear brands following Monday’s decision to sanction its officials.

Numerous other Chinese government departments and state media outlets joined in condemning the Western sanctions.

“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 Foreign Ministry said.

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, responded to the move in a statement: "These sanctions are a blatant attempt to silence British Parliamentarians who are shining a spotlight on the appalling persecution of the Uyghur people. They will not succeed.

Lisa Nandy continued: "The UK has a moral duty to continue to raise the horrific abuses taking place in Xinjiang, and we will continue to press the government to lead the international community to hold the Chinese government to account for their actions."