Five MEPs ‘blacklisted’ by China as Beijing retaliates against fresh EU sanctions

The new EU sanctions were imposed on Monday over alleged human rights abuses by China.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

23 Mar 2021

The restrictive measures are the EU’s response to the alleged large-scale arbitrary detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang and other rights abuses.

Four Chinese party and regional representatives, as well as an organisation from Xinjiang province, will be subject to an asset freeze in the EU, a travel ban to the EU, and a ban on receiving any EU funds.

On Monday, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also sanctioned two current Chinese government officials in connection with what it calls serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

The updated list of sanctions now also includes individuals from North Korea, Russia, Libya and elsewhere.

China immediately hit back by imposing its own measures on five MEPs, EU officials, diplomats and ambassadors.

The blacklisted MEPs include the leader of the Parliament’s China delegation, Reinhard Bütikofer, German EPP member Michael Gahler, French S&D deputy Raphaël Glucksmann, Renew Europe MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, from Bulgaria, and Slovakian EPP member Miriam Lexmann.

“The lifting of sanctions against MEPs is a pre-condition for us to enter into talks with the Chinese government on the investment deal. We will not be intimidated, we will not be silenced” Kathleen Van Brempt, S&D

The spat could put the new EU/China trade investment deal at risk, with the Socialist group saying the deal is dead unless the sanctions against the MEPs are lifted.

On Monday, Parliament’s President David Sassoli met with the five MEPs and later issued a statement which said the sanctions on the MEPs and EU bodies, including Parliament’s sub-committee on human rights, were “unacceptable and will certainly have consequences.”

The Italian said that “the European Parliament and the European institutions will not be intimidated.”

On Tuesday, Bütikofer, a German Greens member, said he welcomed the targeted sanctions, adding, “They are the right step to put the Chinese leadership in its place for human rights abuses against the Uighur population in Xinjiang. EU Foreign Ministers have finally decided to go beyond mere condemnations for the human rights violations and restrictions against the democratic rights of Hong Kong.”

“These sanctions must be followed up with clear and coherent actions across other policy areas such as trade. We demand that the investment agreement currently being negotiated with China must contain clear commitments to ratify international conventions against forced labour.”

He added, “European companies must not continue to benefit from forced labour and must break off business relations with Chinese partners if they manufacture their products in labour camps.”

“China's sanctions against MEPs and the European Parliament are unacceptable. The EU must respond firmly to these attempts at intimidation. This shows once again that China is not willing to consider a real dialogue with Europeans on the fundamental issue of respect for human rights”

Dacian Cioloș, Renew Europe leader

Kathleen Van Brempt, an S&D MEP and group spokesperson on trade, said, “We stand in solidarity with Glucksmann and other Europeans targeted by the Chinese government with retaliatory measures.”

“The lifting of sanctions against MEPs is a pre-condition for us to enter into talks with the Chinese government on the investment deal. We will not be intimidated, we will not be silenced.”

Her comments were echoed by the Renew Europe Group, which said it too “strongly condemns” China’s decision to impose sanctions, including against its MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk, who “China falsely accuses of severely harming China’s sovereignty and interests and maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.”

Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said, “China's sanctions against MEPs and the European Parliament are unacceptable. The EU must respond firmly to these attempts at intimidation. This shows once again that China is not willing to consider a real dialogue with Europeans on the fundamental issue of respect for human rights.”

Renew Europe colleague Soraya Rodríguez Ramos, group coordinator on the subcommittee on human rights, added, “The European Parliament - and especially the subcommittee of human rights- is a space for open dialogue and discussion.”

“China's response, sanctioning fellow members and the subcommittee, is a clear and flagrant demonstration of how dialogue and dissent are not acceptable to the Chinese government.”

“They are the right step to put the Chinese leadership in its place for human rights abuses against the Uighur population in Xinjiang. EU Foreign Ministers have finally decided to go beyond mere condemnations for the human rights violations” Reinhard Bütikofer, Greens/EFA

A Council spokesman said, “The sanctions signal the EU’s strong determination to stand up for human rights and to take tangible action against those responsible for violations and abuses.”

Finnish Greens/EFA member Heidi Hautala said, “Now it must be the turn of others responsible for the most serious human rights violations, such as those behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”

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