The move also marked the first time in three decades that the UK or the EU had punished China for human rights abuses, and both will now be working hard to contain the potential political and economic fallout. China hit back immediately, blacklisting MEPs, European diplomats and thinktanks. The US and Canada also imposed sanctions on several senior Chinese officials as part of the coordinated pressure campaign.
The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said China’s treatment of the Uighur minority was “the largest mass detention of an ethnic and religious group since the second world war”. Evidence of repression in Xinjiang “is clear as it is sobering”, he said.