Campaigners said while MPs had faced travel bans in the past, they believed it was the first time UK parliamentarians had been formally sanctioned by a nation state.
Lawyer Geoffrey Nice QC and academic Joanne Smith Finley were also honored by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, alongside a series of entities: the China Research Group (CRG), the Human Rights Commission man of the Conservative Party, the Uyghur court and the courts of Essex.
The Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister expressed their solidarity with the nine Chinese critics, while the concerned parliamentarians pledged to “redouble” their campaign efforts.
The common theme among the nine blacklisted individuals and four groups was their role in drawing attention to reports of gross human rights violations by the Chinese regime against its Uyghur Muslim minority in the province of northwest Xinjiang.
M. Tugendhat and M. O’Brien are co-chairs of the MAF. The other five MPs and peers are prominent members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance for China (IPAC), an ultra-hawkish group of lawmakers from 19 countries.
‘Badge of Honor’
In a joint statement, the five Ipac parliamentarians said the blacklisting was “an attempt to stifle the free and open debate which is at the heart of our parliamentary democracy”.
“The intimidation will only serve to encourage us to redouble our efforts”, they added, as Sir Iain and Ms Ghani said they saw the sanctions as a “badge of honor”.
Mr Nice, who heads the Uyghur tribunal to investigate atrocities against the minority, said sanctions against him and the tribunal would not limit its work. “We continue to hope that the PRC [People’s Republic of China] will respond to our invitations to cooperate, ”he said.
An Ipac source said the designations prompted a cybersecurity overhaul: “We are improving security, advising all of our members to change their passwords and strengthen their own protocols.”
Mr Tugendhat said: “China has used cyberattacks against me and others in the UK before. No doubt it will increase. ”
Formal advice and support has been requested by Members of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), as well as parliamentary authorities.
The main Chinese diplomat in London was urgently summoned to the department on Friday to be informed by Nigel Adams, the minister for Asia, that Beijing’s sanctions were “unjustified and unacceptable”. Adams told Yang Xiaoguang, the Chinese charge d’affaires, that the move would not distract from “violations taking place in Xinjiang,” the department said.
The Prime Minister said he “stands firm” with sanctioned MPs and British citizens who “play a vital role” in shedding light on the abuses. “The freedom to speak out against abuse is fundamental,” he added.
Dominic Raab, Foreign Minister, said Beijing’s decision was a “sign of weakness” and reiterated his calls for China to allow UN human rights inspectors access to Xinjiang to “check the truth”. He brought to light evidence of torture, rape and forced sterilization of Uyghurs in the internment camps.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that the nine sanctioned Britons and their family members would be banned from entering China and Hong Kong, and that Chinese citizens and institutions were prohibited from doing business with them.
The announcement came in retaliation to Mr. Raab who unveiled a series of sanctions earlier this week against four senior Chinese officials and entities in Xinjiang who are accused of human rights violations. The UK has acted in concert with the US, Canada and the EU.
Mr Tugendhat said Beijing’s decision to sanction the CRG was “deliberately vague” and aimed at silencing other politicians. “There are over 100 MPs from the Conservative, Labor and SNP parties in the China Research Group. It is designed to intimidate, to encourage people not to get involved in MAF, ”he said.
It is still unclear whether MPs attending or speaking at MAF events could also fall under the sanctions regime.
Lord Alton said he has already taken extreme security precautions when communicating online with pro-democracy activists from China and Hong Kong.
At a recent forum of the all-party parliamentary group on Hong Kong, of which he is vice-chair, he said of the participants from Hong Kong: “Their voices should be scrambled and their identities anonymized to protect them for their imprisonment. . ”
Mr O’Brien said of the Chinese state: “Considering what they are doing in terms of cyber against targets much more difficult than us, I just guess they can see everything. ”
He stressed that the assets freeze and the travel ban would not affect him personally, but warned: “This is for business people. China is trying to warn that this is what can happen to you if you do the wrong thing. The big brands like H&M, Nike, very big global companies are, like others before them, being bandaged ”.
H&M and Nike have faced a backlash in China, including calls for a boycott, after expressing “concerns” over cotton production in Xinjiang and allegations that Uyghur forced labor is behind it.
Chinese Embassy in UK claimed reports of human rights abuses against Uyghurs were “lies of the century” and were based on “fabricated” evidence intended to “demonize” China .
A spokesperson said Beijing was “firmly” against British sanctions, adding: “Human rights in Xinjiang cannot be defined by a few satellite images, false reports cobbled together by people thousands of miles away. of the”.