Chinese officials linked to Hong Kong arrests escape UK sanctions

Foreign Office omission of accused human rights abusers on list dismays critics of China, including Uighurs

The UK Foreign Office has caused dismay among critics of China after announcing new travel bans and asset freezes against 10 human rights abusers in four countries but not imposing sanctions – like the US – against Chinese officials.

Nathan Law, a Hong Kong pro-democracy activist, who left the territory for the UK in July after a sweeping national security law was passed, said he was disappointed.

“It cannot be about a lack of evidence,” he said. “This is a political decision. I really think this is about this UK hedging strategy and I hope it will come to an end. There is nothing to expect from China and there is no fantasy to be had about the Chinese communist party.”

Rahima Mahmut, the UK representative for the World Uyghur Congress, described the absence of any Chinese officials as “painful and hurtful” adding: “I hope it is a matter of time. Our people are murdered, sterilised and raped.”

In the sanctions announced, the UK said it was placing travel bans and asset freezes on 10 politicians, officials and others responsible for gross human rights violations in Gambia, Pakistan, Russia and Venezuela.

The measures, introduced on Thursday – International Human Rights Day – are the third set of sanctions to be announced by the UK under its new independent human rights sanctions regime. The EU introduced its own regime of human rights sanctions this week.

Backbench MPs had this week pressed the Foreign Office minister Nigel Adams to impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in arresting pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. He said the issue was under consideration.

This week the US imposed sanctions on 14 Chinese officials. On Thursday it set sanctions on Huang Yuanxiong, chief of the Xiamen public security bureau, Wucun police station, for involvement in gross violations of human rights in Xiamen.

The US state department said: “Huang is associated with particularly severe violations of religious freedom of Falun Gong practitioners, namely his involvement in the detention and interrogation of Falun Gong practitioners for practising their beliefs.”

Luke de Pulford, co-chair of the inter-parliamentary alliance on China, said he had helped put a huge dossier of evidence on human rights abuse in front of the UK officials, as had the US.

The Foreign Office announced it was imposing sanctions against three Russian individuals, and against the Terek special rapid response unit responsible for torture and other human rights violations against LGBT people in Chechnya.

In Venezuela, sanctions will be imposed on three senior security figures responsible for human rights violations under Nicolás Maduro’s regime. They come in the week Maduro organised widely challenged national assembly elections, which the UK has refused to recognise. One of those sanctioned is Rafael Bastardo, commander of FAES (special action forces) until 2019.

The remaining sanctions are imposed on the former Gambia president Yahya Jammeh and his wife. In Pakistan the UK has sanctioned Ahmad Anwar Khan, former senior police superintendent in Malir district, Karichi, who had already been sanctioned by the US treasury for being responsible for mass executions. He retired from the police force.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said: “Global Britain will stand up for democracy, human rights and the rule of law as a force for good in the world.”

Britain claimed it was acting in concert with the US, which was also announcing new designations under separate human rights policies.

It is expected that the UK will present a new set of sanctions in January and that these will be focused on individuals thought corrupt – the first time the country will cite corruption as a reason to impose asset freezes under the legislation.


Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The GuardianTramp

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