A Conservative MP among those recently banned from entering China has said she and her colleagues are “not going to be intimidated” by the state.
Nusrat Ghani, who has been punished by the Chinese Communist Party for criticising its treatment of the Uighur people in Xinjiang, said the sanctions have only made the UK Government “even more vocal” about the issue.
She added that the Government must go “even further” in its action against China by sanctioning more officials involved in the human rights abuses.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has set out a package of travel bans and asset freezes against four senior officials and the state-run Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Public Security Bureau, in an internationally co-ordinated move with the US, Canada and European Union.
Beijing struck back with impositions against nine UK critics of the Chinese state, including Tory MPs Ms Ghani, Tom Tugendhat and Neil O’Brien, and barrister Geoffrey Nice and academic Joanne Nicola Smith.
On Saturday morning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted five of the parliamentarians, including Ms Ghani, in Downing Street’s rose garden to express that he stands “firmly with them”.
Asked the next day if the Government had been tough enough in its dealings with China, Ms Ghani told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “We must remember that these sanctions are in retaliation for the UK Government sanctioning Chinese officials who have been implicated in the gross human rights abuses, so the UK Government is definitely going in the right direction.
“We would ask that the UK Government goes even further and sanctions even more Chinese officials who are involved in the abuses in Xinjiang.”
She added: “We are not going to be intimidated; we are continuing to speak about the abuse of the Uighur, and we now have an even closer relationship with the officials in our Government, whether it’s with the Prime Minister or with the Foreign Secretary, who are going to be even more vocal because of the meeting that took place yesterday and the statement the Foreign Secretary made.
“Whatever the outcome the Chinese Communist Party thought they were going to achieve with sanctioning elected officials, that definitely hasn’t happened, and all we’ve been able to do is talk about the abuse of the Uighur.
“It’s talking about two million people who are in prison camps in Xinjiang and it is an issue for us because they are forced into labour, and those products eventually end up on our shelves here in the UK.”
Ms Ghani added that China’s retaliation has provided a “turning point” for the UK Government to think about how it will “assert our values” on the world stage.
She said: “These sanctions are a turning point in how we consider our long-term relationship with China, not just the UK, but also working with our partners…
“I think this a moment that I don’t expect the Chinese Communist Party wanted to come about because of the sanctions but we now have an opportunity to think about – are we going to assert our values, and how we’re going to do that.”
On Friday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that nine Britons and their family members will be prohibited from entering China and Hong Kong, along with a Canadian MP and two American religious rights officials.
Chinese citizens and institutions will also be banned from doing business with them.
Mr Johnson and US President Joe Biden shared their concerns about the retaliatory action in a phone call later that day, and the Prime Minister praised those who have been “shining a light on the gross human rights violations” in China.
Former Conservative Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith and the other parliamentarians present in the rose garden on Saturday also said the sanctions “will only serve to encourage us to redouble our efforts”.