European Union (EU) lawmakers pushed to bolster sanctions against Chinese officials involved in alleged human rights violations in the western region of Xinjiang.
The European Parliament adopted a non-binding resolution on Thursday condemning systematic repression of the Uyghur community in China, including through mass deportation, family separation, religious restrictions, and the extensive use of surveillance. It called for a ban on importing goods made with forced labour.
“The European Parliament is signalling that it no longer wants the EU to be complicit with the Chinese totalitarian regime, which has been perpetuating a crime against humanity in the Xinjiang province for five years,” Heidi Hautala, a vice president of the parliament, said in a statement.
The resolution urges the EU’s executive and member states to adopt additional sanctions targeting high-ranking Chinese officials as well as others identified in hacked Xinjiang police files. It also calls for the European Commission to propose an import ban on all goods produced by forced labour and by all Chinese companies listed as exploiting forced labour.
The resolution is symbolic, but it risks angering Chinese authorities after the EU in 2021 imposed sanctions targeting four Chinese nationals and one entity over the alleged abuses in Xinjiang.
Beijing denies the allegations, saying they’re part of a campaign to halt China’s economic rise. On Friday, You Wenze, spokesman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress, said the legislature of the Asian nation condemned the passing of the resolution. The Xinjiang issue is not about human rights but counterterrorism, You said.
The vote follows the release of hacked Xinjiang police files last month which gave fresh evidence of alleged atrocities against mostly Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs in mass detention camps in a region which makes up nearly a sixth of China’s land area, while only accounting for less than 2% of its population. Reports of human rights abuses have sparked an international outcry with the US preparing to ban all goods from the region later this month.
“The leaked speeches, images, documents and spreadsheets shed new light on the brutal methods used by the Chinese government, seriously eroding the cultural and religious identity of the Uyghur people, justifying massive-scale and indiscriminate actions under the disguise of the fight against terrorism,” European Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis told lawmakers on Wednesday.
This undated handout image released by The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation on May 24, 2022, shows detainees guarded by police as they watch a televised speech by the then Governor of Ili Prefecture Nurlan Abdumalin at the Tekes County Detention Centre in the Xinjiang Region of western China. (Photo: AFP)