Britain’s government condemned the move as an attempt by Beijing to stifle criticism, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he stood in solidarity with those affected.
The Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement it had sanctioned four entities and nine individuals, including lawmakers such as former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith and the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, that “maliciously spread lies and disinformation”.
Targeted individuals and their immediate family members are prohibited from entering Chinese territory, the ministry said, adding that Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them.
The move is a retaliation to a coordinated set of sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union, Britain and Canada against Beijing over what they say are human rights violations against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. Beijing has already applied retaliatory sanctions against the EU that were in line with Friday’s announcement.
“China is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and warns the UK side not to go further down the wrong path,” the Chinese ministry said. “Otherwise, China will resolutely make further reactions.”
The sanctions are the latest sign of deteriorating relations between London and Beijing. The two have been trading angry words over a range of issues including China’s reforms in former British colony Hong Kong and China’s trade policy.
One of the sanctioned lawmakers, Duncan Smith, said he wore the sanctions as a “badge of honour”.
Prime Minister Johnson tweeted to express his solidarity with those affected.
“The MPs (Members of Parliament) and other British citizens sanctioned by China today are performing a vital role shining a light on the gross human rights violations being perpetrated against Uyghur Muslims,” he wrote.
“Freedom to speak out in opposition to abuse is fundamental and I stand firmly with them.”
Earlier this month Britain published a review of foreign policy which set out its ambitions to gain more influence in the Indo-Pacific region as a way to moderate China’s growing global power, but acknowledged that it must work with Beijing on trade and global issues like climate change.
Britain’s Burberry has in recent days been hit by a Chinese backlash over Western accusations of abuses in Xinjiang.
Activists and UN rights experts say at least a million Muslims have been detained in camps in Xinjiang. The activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labour and sterilisations. China has repeatedly denied all accusations of abuse and says its camps offer vocational training and are needed to fight extremism.
“It seems I am to be sanctioned by the PRC (Chinese) government for speaking the truth about the #Uyghur tragedy in #Xinjiang, and for having a conscience,” Jo Smith Finley, a Uighur expert at Newcastle University, said on Twitter.
“Well, so be it. I have no regrets for speaking out, and I will not be silenced.”