The European Union (EU) has agreed to blacklist Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), two diplomats told Reuters on Wednesday.
Travel bans and asset freezes will be imposed on four Chinese individuals and one entity, Reuters said, adding the names of the people will not be revealed until EU foreign ministers approve the measures on 22 March.
According to the diplomats, the bloc's list of 11 names will include Russian, Libyan, South Sudanese, and North Korean officials.
"Restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses adopted", an EU diplomat said in a statement.
The Chinese officials were accused of human rights violations against Uyghurs, EU diplomats told Reuters, adding the measures were due to concerns of the Uyghur population in Europe, Canada, and the United States.
The sanctions were the first since June 1989 after the EU slapped an arms embargo on Beijing following the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The news follows a massive campaign by 180 activists, organisations, and lawmakers accusing Beijing of genocide against Uyghurs in Xinjiang, which Beijing has sharply and repeatedly rejected.
Numerous Canadian and British lawmakers have called for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and to move the major sporting event to another location.
— Mission of China (@ChinaEUMission) March 17, 2021
But Chinese envoy to the EU, Zhang Ming, slammed the sanctions as "confrontational" in a tweet on Wednesday.
"Sanctions are confrontational. We want dialogue, not confrontation. We ask the EU side to think twice. If some insist on confrontation, we will not back down, as we have no options other than fulfilling our responsibilities to the people", he tweeted.
Further tensions between the United Kingdom and China came after UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged for a probe into China's alleged detainment camps in the westernmost province at the 46th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), sparking further rows with Beijing.
China has denied the accusations, stating its efforts are used to fight extremism and terrorism, as well as stabilise the region. The developments come despite China and the EU inking "in principle" the world's largest bilateral trade deal in history in late December.