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Radio Free Asia

China Passes Law Countering Foreign Sanctions Over Rights Abuses

2021-06-10 -- China has passed a tit-for-tat law allowing targeted sanctions against foreign individuals and organizations following a slew of sanctions targeting ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials over human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

The country's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), passed the law on Thursday, with state media reporting it as a move intended as a counter to recent sanctions from the U.S..

It comes after CCP general secretary Xi Jinping called last November for the government to use "legal means" to defend China's interests amid growing international criticism of its rights record and overseas propaganda and infiltration operations.

China's state broadcaster CCTV made the announcement ahead of the three-day G7 leadership summit, which opens in the U.K. on Friday.

Chinese political commentator Wu Qiang said the passing of China's Anti-Sanctions Law sends a strong message to the international community.

"China is trying to respond to the sanctions imposed on it by the international community," Wu said.

"Escalating the current standoff will exacerbate its isolation and the rift between China and the international community," he said. "It is not trying to find ways to communicate, [or move] towards mutual alignment."

He said further tensions could emerge around the U.S. insistence that the origins of the coronavirus that led to the COVID-19 pandemic be investigate, amid further unconfirmed reports of a possible leak from a top-security viral research laboratory in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged.

Coordinated sanctions over Uyghurs

Last week, the Biden administration banned U.S. investment in around 60 companies in China's defense or surveillance technology sectors in a bid to limit the flow of money to firms that undermine U.S. security or "domestic values," which allows listings for human rights abuses.

On March 22, the European Union, U.S., Canada, and the U.K. sanctioned Chinese officials and security entities as part of a multilateral approach to hold to account those responsible for Beijing's policies of oppression against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

China has already leveled retaliatory sanctions against Western officials and scholars in response to U.S. and European measures over rights abuses in the region.

Some sanctions target the Political and Security Committee of the Council of the European Union, the Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament, the Mercator Institute for China Studies in Germany, and the Alliance of Democracies Foundation in Denmark.

China's Foreign Ministry has also designated members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Canadian lawmaker Michael Chong and the House of Commons Foreign Affairs subcommittee on human rights for retaliatory visa and financial sanctions related to Xinjiang.

And on March 17, one day before a high-level bilateral meeting in Alaska, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced sanctions against 24 Chinese officials for their efforts "to unilaterally undermine Hong Kong's electoral system" by enacting amendments to screen legislative candidates for their allegiance to Beijing.

Feng Chongyi, Chinese studies professor at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, said China has adopted a tit-for-tat approach to respond to foreign sanctions, but often overestimates its own strength.

"They tend to greatly overestimate Xi Jinping's power and prestige, and China's strength," Feng said. "They believe they are really powerful, to the point of self-delusion."

"They impose sanctions on Australia and the European Union because they believe that the EU and Australia are heavily dependent on China," he said.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, who has reportedly been forced to use cash after sanctions hit her credit card accounts, said on June 7 that her government supports the new law.

Reported by Qiao Long and Chingman for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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