The sanctions that China is imposing on various politicians, academics and think tanks in the democratic world are designed to intimidate. Their aim is to make people, and particularly firms, think twice about criticising China over its human rights record and in particular its treatment of the Uighurs.
Last night, China slapped sanctions on a bunch of British parliamentarians, and some academics, in retaliation for Britain putting sanctions on four Chinese officials working on the Xinjiang internment policy. It is imperative that this country stands behind these individuals and groups. We cannot allow a situation where China can determine the contours of debate in this country.
Boris Johnson should immediately invite those sanctioned to Downing Street and assure them of the full assistance of the UK government in any matter arising from these sanctions. (Worryingly some of those sanctioned have yet to hear anything from the government).
The leader of the House of Commons should also make a statement asserting that the government will defend the right of parliamentarians and committees to free speech; the Chinese have sanctioned the chair of the Foreign Affairs select committee — Tom Tugendhat — who was elected to that position by his fellow MPs.
Beijing wishes to intimidate the West, to make the price of criticising the actions of the Chinese Communist party so high that few are prepared to pay it. Britain must show that it won’t be intimidated and that it will defend the right of its parliamentarians and citizens to speak out.