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New Zealand and Australia have issued a joint statement supporting the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada in the sanctioning of Chinese officials over the abuse of the Uyghur, but neither country has said it will join the effort.
On Monday, the sanctions were announced for officials in Xinjiang, a western province of China that is home to the Uyghur minority, with assets frozen of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps (XPCC), a paramilitary force which is held responsible for human rights abuse.
The “intensive diplomacy”, as British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, was met with an immediate response by China, which sanctioned 10 EU parliamentarians and scholars, and four EU organisations.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta on Tuesday issued a statement, along with Australian Foreign Minister Marie Payne, saying the two countries welcomed the sanctions and “share these countries’ deep concerns, which are held across the New Zealand and Australian communities”.
But neither country committed to also applying the sanctions. New Zealand lacks the legal mechanisms to unilaterally apply sanctions to people or groups it chooses, and the Government abandoned the Autonomous Sanctions Bill, which would have created such an independent sanctions regime in 2020.
Instead, New Zealand is bound by the United Nations Security Council regime.
“The New Zealand and Australian Governments today reiterate their grave concerns about the growing number of credible reports of severe human rights abuses against ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” the statement from the foreign ministers read.
“In particular, there is clear evidence of severe human rights abuses that include restrictions on freedom of religion, mass surveillance, large-scale extra-judicial detentions, as well as forced labour and forced birth control, including sterilisation.
“Today we underscore the importance of transparency and accountability, and reiterate our call on China to grant meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for United Nations experts, and other independent observers.”
Beijing has for years placed more than a million Uyghur, a Muslim minority, in detention facilities in Xinjiang, asserting that the mass detention is vocational education and training aimed at curbing a terror threat.
The US in January said China’s actions amounted to genocide, and New Zealand has joined statements at the United Nations about “an increasing number of reports of gross human rights violations”.
Raab on Monday issued a statement saying the XPCC and four senior Xinjiang officials would be targeted by the joint sanctions. The officials were Zhu Hailun, Wang Junzheng, Wang Mingshan and Chen Mingguo, each holding legal affairs and security roles in the province.
The US Department of Treasury targeted both Wang Junzhend and Chen in its sanctions.
After the EU announced its sanctions, a Chinese Foreign Minister spokesperson issued a condemnation: “This move, based on nothing but lies and disinformation, disregards and distorts facts, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs, flagrantly breaches international law and basic norms governing international relations, and severely undermines China-EU relations.”