China sanctions Conservative member of Parliament Michael Chong, federal subcommittee

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China's decision to sanction a Conservative MP as well as a Parliamentary subcommittee is an attack on freedom of speech regarding human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday.

"China's sanctions are an attack on transparency and freedom of expression — values at the heart of our democracy," Trudeau said on Twitter.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau called China's actions against Tory MP Michael Chong and on the subcommittee on international human rights "unacceptable."

"The Government of Canada stands with parliamentarians and all Canadians as we continue to work with partners in defence of democracy and freedom of speech and will continue to take action when international human rights obligations are violated," Garneau said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China said in a news release it has banned Chong from entering the country and prohibited any Chinese citizen from doing business with him. The sanctions also targeted the federal subcommittee on which Chong sits, which is studying the situation of the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in China's Xinjiang region.

China said its actions were in response to sanctions levied by Canada on Chinese officials regarding the situation in Xinjiang.

"The Chinese government is firmly determined to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and development interests, and urges the relevant parties to clearly understand the situation and redress their mistakes," the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

"They must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues, stop interfering in China's internal affairs in any form and refrain from going further down the wrong path. Otherwise, they will get their fingers burnt."

Canada joined other countries on Monday in imposing sanctions against four Chinese officials and a Chinese entity. Global Affairs Canada said mounting evidence points to state-led abuses by Chinese authorities against more than one million Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities on the basis of their religion and ethnicity. The department said the abuses include "political re-education, forced labour, torture and forced sterilization."

Trudeau said Monday the sanctions were imposed on China over "the gross and systematic human rights abuses taking place in the region."

Chong, the Tories' foreign affairs critic, said Saturday he has a duty to call out China's "genocide" of Uyghur Muslims. "We who live freely in democracies under the rule of law must speak for the voiceless," Chong said on Twitter.

"If that means China sanctions me, I'll wear it as a badge of honour."

China also said Saturday it imposed sanctions against the chair and vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedoms.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 27, 2021.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press