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China warns the European Union to “think twice” before imposing sanctions on Xinjiang

Rights groups believe that at least one million Uyghurs and Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in Xinjiang camps. (AP photo)

BRUSSELS: China’s ambassador to the European Union warned, on Tuesday, against imposing sanctions on Beijing for its actions in the Xinjiang region, as the union decides how to respond to the crackdown on the Uighur minority.

I want to emphasize that sanctions are confrontation. In a video conference with the Brussels-based European Policy Center think-tank, Ambassador Zhang Ming said that sanctions based on lies could be interpreted as intentionally undermining China’s security and development interests.

We want a dialogue, not a confrontation. We ask the European Union to think twice. If some insist on confrontation, we will not back down because we have no options but to fulfill our responsibilities towards the people of our country. “

European Union member states are currently working on plans to expand the International Union for Human Rights sanctions regime after it was launched this month with sanctions imposed on four Russian officials over the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

European diplomats say the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers are expected to agree at a meeting on Monday to add a small number of individuals or entities in China to the blacklist over the treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

Officials in other countries, including Russia, North Korea and Eritrea, are also expected to face asset freezes and visa bans over alleged human rights violations.

Rights groups believe that at least a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities have been imprisoned in camps in the northwestern region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labor.

China has vehemently denied allegations of forced labor involving Uighurs in Xinjiang, and says better training programs, work plans and education have helped stem extremism in the region.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday that he expects there will be agreement among the 27 member states on new sanctions next week.

“We have created a way to punish violations of the human rights sanctions regime … We are currently working on a global approach,” Maas said.

It will not only be related to China, but also to many other countries and violations.

The European Union faces a delicate balancing act regarding its relations with China, treating Beijing as a competitor as well as a potential economic partner.

Brussels concluded a major investment agreement late last year with China after seven years of negotiations, but is under pressure from the administration of the new US President Joe Biden to form a united front against Beijing.

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