Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying attends a press conference in Beijing on January 21, 2021.

Carlos Garcia Rawlins | Reuters

BEIJING – China on Friday imposed sanctions on British companies, stating that the UK’s sanctions against Chinese people for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang were based on “lies and disinformation”.

The State Department imposed sanctions on four British companies and nine people who are banned from doing business with China. Their wealth in the country will also be frozen, the ministry said.

This is a step further than previous Chinese sanctions against foreign companies. This week’s sanctions against European Union companies and American politicians in January focused on banning travel to China and doing business.

The new sanctions against Great Britain are primarily directed against those concerned with human rights, particularly against the Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Xinjiang is home to the Uighur Muslims, an ethnic minority that the United Nations, United States, United Kingdom and others have identified as an oppressed group.

The US, EU, UK and Canada imposed sanctions on Chinese officials on Monday. This is the first coordinated action by Western nations since US President Joe Biden took office. The countries cited human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region – allegations Beijing has repeatedly denied.

Swedish clothing retailer H&M disappeared from major online shopping sites in China on Thursday after responding to the brand’s earlier comments on suspected forced labor in Xinjiang on Chinese social media. A similar statement from Nike caused two Chinese celebrities to cut ties with the US sportswear brand.