China announced sanctions against nine UK individuals and four entities on Friday, saying they had “maliciously spread lies and disinformation” over Beijing’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority.
It was the latest salvo in an intensifying diplomatic row that has seen several Western powers, including the European Union and United States, lodge protests over the human rights situation in China’s northwest Xinjiang region.
At least one million Uyghurs and people from other mostly Muslim groups have been held in camps in the region, according to rights groups, where authorities are also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labour.
Those sanctioned Friday included Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of Britain’s Conservative party, and other lawmakers.
“The United Kingdom (UK) imposed unilateral sanctions on relevant Chinese individuals and entity, citing the so-called human rights issues in Xinjiang,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, and severely undermines China-UK relations.”
It added that the sanctioned parties would be barred from China — including Hong Kong and Macau — their property in the country would be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions would be banned from dealings with them.
It warned Britain “not go further down the wrong path”.