Relations between the EU and China are deteriorating rapidly. Brussels recently imposed sanctions on China for violating the human rights of the Uyghur minority. In a response, that country placed ten Europeans, including D66 Member of Parliament Sjoerd Sjoerdsma, on a blacklist. These retaliatory measures are condemned “in the strongest possible terms” by the President of the European Parliament and those of the parliaments of the Netherlands, Belgium and Lithuania.
“This feels like a lot of support,” says Sjoerdsma. “China is trying to encroach on our freedom of speech and indirectly our democratic process. I hope that the governments in Europe are in the same line. I am not the first and certainly not the last to be affected. Uyghurs, Tibetans or Hong Kong residents should be able to feel completely free in Europe to say what they think. “
Sjoerdsma and CDA MP Pieter Omtzigt are the inventors of a European sanctions regime that was introduced in December. This also allows the EU to blacklist individual human rights violators.
On March 22, Brussels decided to impose such sanctions for the first time. These were sanctions against, among others, four Chinese who play a key role in the persecution of the Uyghur minority and the detention in so-called education camps in Xinjiang province. These persons can no longer travel to the European Union and their financial assets have been frozen in the EU.
Motion on genocide by China
The Lower House voted on 25 February with a motion by Sjoerdsma and former Member of Parliament Joël Voordewind of the ChristenUnie stating that China is committing genocide on the Uyghurs.
“The detention camps where an estimated one million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are locked up are so large that you can see them from space,” the D66er said at the time. He spoke of “the greatest mass imprisonment of ethnic minorities since World War II”.
Not only the European Union, but also the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom recently imposed sanctions on China over the situation in Xinjiang.
China then placed ten politicians, scientists and researchers on a sanction list for spreading lies and disinformation, according to Beijing. Sjoerdsma asked the Chinese ambassador in The Hague via Twitter for an explanation of the allegations, but received no answer.
‘This intimidation of parliamentarians is unacceptable’
In addition to Sjoerdsma, some MEPs and members of parliament from Belgium and Lithuania have also been blacklisted by China. That is why the presidents of their national parliaments and the European Parliament are now speaking out. “We are extremely concerned about this serious violation of freedom of expression,” the statement said. “This intimidation of parliamentarians is unacceptable.”
Khadija Arib wrote on 24 March on behalf of the Lower House a letter to the Chinese ambassador in the Netherlands in which she was “unpleasantly surprised” about the “unacceptable sanctions” imposed on Sjoerdsma. “This measure could have consequences for relations between the parliaments of our two countries,” she concluded in her letter.