EU and UK sanction China over human rights abuses for the first time in 30 years

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Britain and the EU have imposed sanctions on officials in China over human rights abuses against the Muslim Uighur minority group.

The US and Canada have also imposed parallel sanctions on several senior Chinese officials as part of the coordinated pressure campaign.

China responded with its own sanctions on European officials.

It has denied the allegations of abuse, claiming the camps are "re-education" facilities used to combat terrorism.

The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab said that China’s treatment of the Uighur minority was “the largest mass detention of an ethnic and religious group since the second world war”.

The sanctions will be imposed immediately and include travel bans and asset freezes against four officials, Raab told MPs.

The EU has not imposed new sanctions on China over human rights abuses since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, when troops in Beijing opened fire on pro-democracy protesters.

The Chinese ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, had given advance warning there would be countermeasures, including against those organisations spreading “lies” about the situation in Xinjiang. China also said it was sanctioning 10 EU individuals and four entities.

In a statement China said: “The Chinese side urges the EU side to reflect on itself, face squarely the severity of its mistake and redress it. It must stop lecturing others on human rights and interfering in their internal affairs. It must end the hypocritical practice of double standards.”

More than a million Uighurs and other minorities are estimated to have been detained in camps in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang lies in the north-west of China and is the country's biggest region.Uighurs living in the region speak their own language, similar to Turkish, and see themselves as culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations.

The Chinese government has been accused of carrying out forced sterilisations on Uighur women and separating children from their families.

The Labour party has said Raab’s timing, hours after the EU acted and following months of Foreign Office resistance, showed the UK 'sheltering behind the EU'. The UK has an independent sanctions regime to the EU, however, waited for the EU to act before taking any measures to avoid being singled out for punishment by China.

Neither the UK or EU has imposed sanctions against Chinese officials involved in the suppression of democratic elections in Hong Kong.

The UK last week declared that China was in breach of the Sino-British joint declaration on Hong Kong as a result of the suppression of full elections, but has so far not taken any measures against the Chinese for their treatment of the former UK colony.