China: IBA salutes advocates standing up for the rule of law

Monday 29 March 2021

The International Bar Association (IBA) joins the international community in solidarity with those against whom China’s government has levied asset and visa sanctions. Widely regarded as retaliatory measures by the Chinese authorities, individuals, institutions and organisations, that have been critical of the alleged ill-treatment of Uighur Muslims in the Northern province of Xianjiang in China, have been targeted by China’s government. The imposed restrictions prevent travel to China, freeze assets and ban Chinese citizens and institutions from doing business with anyone on the list.

IBA President Sternford Moyo commented: ‘When the rule of law and human rights are under threat in any part of the world each one of us has the duty to speak out. Sanctions have been imposed by China on those who have done just that. It is ironic that the very voices the Chinese authorities sought to silence have, inadvertently, been amplified because of imposition of sanctions. Having drawn the ire of China, each individual or entity, listed has shown the world that they are prepared to stand in the courage of their convictions for a more just world. They improve the world by their example and are an inspiration to us all.’

On 26 March 2021, the Chinese authorities issued its most recent list of individuals and entities to have sanctions levied against them. All were from the United Kingdom:

  • five members of the Parliament of the UK – Nusrat Ghani, Tim Loughton, Neil O'Brien, Iain Duncan Smith and Tom Tugendhat;

  • two members of the UK House of Lords – David Alton and Helena Kennedy;

  • an academic – Joanne Smith Finley;

  • a barrister – Geoffrey Nice; and

  • four entities – the China Research Group, Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, Uyghur Tribunal, and Essex Court Chambers.

The reasons for their inclusion include: Conservative UK Members of Parliament (MPs), Sir Iain, Ms Ghani and Mr Loughton, and peers Lord Alton and Baroness Kennedy QC, are all members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China; Conservative MPs Mr Tugendhat and Mr O'Brien lead the China Research Group; Lawyer Sir Geoffrey Nice QC is chair of the Uighur Tribunal, which is investigating atrocities against the minority group; and Newcastle University academic Dr Smith Finley’s research focuses on the Uighurs.

A statement by the Chinese authorities read: ‘As of today, the individuals concerned and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering the mainland, [and] the Hong Kong and Macao SARs [special administrative regions] of China. Their property in China will be frozen, and Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them. China reserves the right to take further measures.’

IBA Executive Director Mark Ellis commented: ‘The unintended consequence of China issuing sanctions against UK residents and entities has led to deeper examination around the importance of giving voice to people who may be temporarily devoid of their own. International law and human rights are taking centre stage as the world wonders why a request by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Xinjiang province has been denied. With accusations of “genocide”, “crimes against humanity” and “rape”, China should understand that such alleged crimes cannot be allowed to be perpetrated with impunity. We respect and applaud those who are holding to account anyone who may be violating the fundamental human rights of others.’

On 22 March 2021, the governments of Canada, the UK and United States, together with the European Union, imposed sanctions on four senior Chinese officials involved in the alleged mass internment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

China retaliated immediately and, on 22 March 2021, sanctioned ten EU individuals and four entities, accusing them of seriously offending China’s sovereignty through comments made around large detention camps and reported abuses of Uighur Muslims. It was reported that China initially denied the existence of these camps but then later admitted their existence, labelling them as ‘political education’ camps before stating at one point that all one million detainees had been released.

The members of the European Parliament sanctioned by China from Germany were Reinhard Butikofer, Michael Gahler, Raphael Glucksmann, Ilhan Kyuchyuk and Miriam Lexmann. Other individuals sanctioned included Dutch politician Sjoerd Wiemer Sjoerdsma, Belgian parliamentarian Samuel Cogolati, Lithuanian member of parliament Dovile Sakaliene and two scholars – Adrian Zenz of Germany and Bjorn Jerden of Sweden. They were among those accused of ‘severely harming China’s sovereignty and interests and maliciously spreading lies and disinformation.’

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

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