413 views | Francis Azuka | March 13, 2021
European Union (EU) is expected to apply sanctions later this month against four individuals and one entity in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in connection with human rights abuses against the Uyghur people.
Diplomats speaking to the Wall Street Journal and EU Observer said the sanctions, which will be applied under the EU’s Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, include travel bans and asset freezes and were agreed on 11 March. The measures will be formally signed off by foreign ministers later this month, at which time the names of the sanctioned individuals will be released. Other officials and entities are set to be sanctioned in connection with human rights abuses in Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Russia, and South Sudan.
The news emerged shortly after the conclusion of the Chinese government’s 14th annual parliamentary meeting, known as the ‘Two Sessions.’ The meetings included proposals and key messaging on Hong Kong, climate change, technological independence, economic development and “ethnic unity.”
During the meetings, a resolution to ensure only “patriots” can rule Hong Kong was passed almost unanimously. It gives the mainly pro-Beijing electoral committee the power to vet candidates to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, and to elect many of its members. The move has been strongly opposed by former governor of Hong Kong Lord Chris Patten, who said that the Chinese Communist Party had “taken the biggest step so far to obliterate Hong Kong’s freedoms and aspirations for greater democracy under the rule of law.”
There was also an emphasis on “ethnic unity.” Near the start of the session, on 5 March, China’s Leader Xi Jinping told authorities in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region that they must “solve ethnic problems,” push the use of the Mandarin language, and correct “wrong ideas” on culture and nationality. In September 2020, thousands of ethnic Mongolian students and parents boycotted classes in protest against the Chinese government’s decision to make Mandarin the language of instruction in three subjects in schools in the Mongolian Region. According to the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center, many protest leaders were arrested, disappeared, placed under house arrest, or expelled from their jobs, schools or official positions in the crackdown that followed.
Reacting to the imminent sanction, Rights Advocacy which focuses on religious freedom, CSW’s European Liaison Officer Alessandro Pecorari said: “The horrific abuses by the Chinese Communist Party against the Uyghur people and other ethnic and religious groups across the country are a grave affront to humanity which must not be allowed to continue. The news of impending EU sanctions on the perpetrators of human rights violations in the Uyghur Region is therefore a welcome measure. It is striking that while the two sessions focused on a range of social and economic issues, leaders failed to address any of the country’s critical human rights problems, in particular that the cultural rights of ethnic Mongolians, and the rights of all ethnic and religious minorities, are fully protected. We are also dismayed to see this further move to limit fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong and call for a reversal of this policy. CSW calls on other governments, including the UK, to join the EU to use every measure available to them to ensure that Chinese officials responsible for human rights violations are held to account.”