Shortly after European Union foreign ministers signed off on a slate of punitive measures on Monday over alleged human rights abuses, including sanctions directed at China, China hit back with tit-for-tat countermeasures by sanctioning 10 individuals and four entities that have spread rumors and lies about Xinjiang.
The Council of the European Union announced on Monday to impose restrictive measures on four Chinese nationals and one entity, as a reaction to the alleged mistreatment by China of its minority Uygur population in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, including some senior officials of the 13th People’s Congress of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.
This marks the EU’s first ever sanctions against China in 30 years, a move observers say will deal a heavy blow to bilateral relations between the two sides.
After seeing Chinese and US senior officials’ exchange of blunt words in Alaska last week, and China’s retort against US accusations on issues such as Xinjiang and Hong Kong, the EU should learn its lesson on how to deal with China, warned Chinese experts, noting that Beijing is not afraid of a sanction-wielding Washington, not to mention a much weaker Brussels.
In response to the EU move, the Chinese government sanctioned 10 individuals including Reinhard Bütikofer, chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with China, and Michael Gahler, chair of the European Parliament-Taiwan Friendship Group, in addition to some members of the European Parliament affiliated with the parliaments of EU member countries such as Germany, Belgium, Lithuania and the Netherlands.
German scholar Adrian Zenz, an infamous anti-China pseudo-researcher, who has been spreading rumors about Xinjiang and stepping up a disinformation campaign against China, as well as some other think tanks engaged in the disinformation campaign, have also been put on China’s sanction list.
Sources close to the matter told the Global Times over the weekend that the Chinese government is formulating countermeasures against the EU. Some EU institutions that have been spearheading the accusations against China’s Xinjiang policies will bear the brunt of the countermeasures, and some individuals in EU countries who have behaved badly will not escape punishment, so do some high-profile individuals who frequently bash China on its Xinjiang affairs, for example, Bütikofer.
Bütikofer has frequently and groundlessly criticized China and obstructed the China-EU investment agreement, using China’s handling of the Xinjiang and Hong Kong affairs as his excuse.
The individuals concerned and their families are prohibited from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong and Macao, according to the Chinese authorities. And the companies and institutions associated with them are also restricted from doing business with China.
Entities including the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union, Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Germany, and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark were also sanctioned by the Chinese government.
The number of individuals and entities that China has put onto the sanction list has far outnumbered those of the EU, which showed China’s resolute determination of defending its core interests and unswervingly fighting against the disinformation and smear campaign concerning China’s policies and internal affairs, according to Chinese experts.
Compared with the previous sanctions imposed by Europe, China’s sanctions are stronger and more extensive, at least in terms of the scope of the sanctioned subjects, Cui Hongjian, director of the Department of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times Monday.
The list expands from the key figures who have been challenging China over the Xinjiang affairs to those within the EU who have been repeatedly interfering in China’s human rights in various ways for a long time. Some of them don’t have a direct say on Xinjiang, but have repeatedly challenged China on human rights, Cui said.
The sanctions are intended to send a strong warning signal to the EU, urging it to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, and not only on Xinjiang-related issues, Cui stressed.
Wang Jiang, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Monday that in addition to the countermeasures, China will also use the legal tools to defend the legitimate rights of Chinese individuals and entities.
It is also possible that the relevant Chinese entities and individuals will sue those people promoting the sanction measures, just as Xinjiang residents had brought rumormonger Adrian Zenz into the courtroom for reputational and economic losses, and local legal authorities in Europe will have to handle those civil litigations.
Once legal procedures are underway, the defendant will have to bring up proof, which will demonstrate that those so-called sanctions over Xinjiang affairs are based on rumors, making it hard to go forward.
Meanwhile, the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature, has already said that it will accelerate its work on laws against external sanctions, interference and long-arm jurisdiction, which would also be helpful in fighting against the unjustified application of foreign laws and sanction measures against Chinese officials and individuals, according to Wang.
China can learn from Russia in countering foreign sanctions, such as granting the head of state the authority to allocate administrative resources in fighting those sanctions and protecting its citizens and companies, and also by accelerating the relevant anti-sanction legislature formulation, he said.