UK Passes Sanctions Legislation to Protect Uyghur Muslim Community in Xinjiang Province, People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) | Locke Lord LLP
On March 22, 2021, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, speaking about the human rights situation in Xinjiang, PRC, said he was ‘largest mass detention of an ethnic and religious group since World War II‘. Further, he said, regarding the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims, that:
“In sum, the evidence points to a very disturbing program of repression. Expressions of religion have been criminalized; The Uyghur language and culture are systematically discriminated against; the use of forced labor is widespread; forcibly sterilized women; children separated from their parents; an entire population subject to surveillance, including the collection of DNA, the use of facial recognition software and so-called “predictive policing” algorithms.
According to activists and UN experts, at least one million Muslims are being held in camps in Xinjiang. The PRC denies rights abuses and says its camps provide vocational training and are needed to counter extremism.
Therefore, following EU, US and Canadian legislation, the UK government introduced the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 (‘regulations’). The settlement imposes travel bans on certain senior Chinese officials and asset freezes on individuals and entities involved in the Xinjiang regime. To date, four senior officials have been sanctioned as “designated persons” by the EU and the UK. The UK has also imposed sanctions on the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Policy Security Bureau. The regulations also prohibit making funds and economic resources available to designated persons.
The settlement aims to send a clear message to the Chinese government that the international community will not turn a blind eye to serious and systematic human rights violations. The move also marked the first time in three decades that the UK or the EU punished China for human rights abuses. So far, 39 countries have signed a joint statement at the UN condemning human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The EU sanctions regime is similar to the Magnitsky Act, an Obama-era law that allows the US government to sanction individuals it deems to be human rights abusers, freeze their assets and prevent them from entering the United States.