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People line up at the Kunshan Industrial Park in Artux in western China's Xinjiang region in December 2018.The Associated Press

The Chinese government has issued sanctions against foreign affairs critic Michael Chong and on a Canadian parliamentary sub-committee that has accused China of committing “genocide” against Muslim groups in its Xinjiang region.

The sanctions come after Canada joined with the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union in imposing human-rights-related sanctions against senior officials in Xinjiang, where Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other largely-Muslims groups have been the target of Chinese government campaigns that have included forcible political incarceration, mass incarceration and “labour transfer” policies to move large numbers of people from rural areas into factories in other parts of China.

Beijing says its policies have sought to eliminate religious extremism. China denies any violations of human rights, saying it has protected stability with its actions.

Canada’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights, however, unanimously found that China’s policies in Xinjiang amounted to genocide, in a non-binding decision last October. “Nearly two million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims are being detained, including men, women, and children as young as 13 years old,” the sub-committee said in a statement. “Witnesses noted that this is the largest mass detention of a minority community since the Holocaust.”

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Government propaganda with slogans that include "Forever follow the Party" and "China's Ethnicities One Family" are shown in the city of Aksu in western China's Xinjiang region on March 18, 2021.Ng Han Guan/The Associated Press

The Canadian government subsequently acted against senior Xinjiang officials, in the first sanctions against China since the 1989 massacre of students and others at Tiananmen Square.

Earlier this week, China imposed retaliatory sanctions on people in the EU and the U.K.

Late Saturday night, it also moved against Mr. Chong and the parliamentary sub-committee, saying it was acting against those who took measures against China “based on lies and false information.”

“The Chinese government is unwavering in its determination to defend national sovereignty, security and developments interests,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Evidence for Chinese campaigns against Uyghurs and others comes largely from Chinese government reports, which have documented the creation of centres for political “education” and skills training, as well as satellite imagery and reporting from The Globe and Mail and others, which have shown the destruction of mosques in the region.

Members of the human rights sub-committee include Liberals Peter Fonseca – the sub-committee chair – as well as Iqra Khalid, Jennifer O’Connell and Anita Vandenbeld.

The Chinese government said it would also sanction Gayle Manchin, chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, as well as the commission’s vice chair, Tony Perkins.

Mr. Chong, a Conservative MP from Ontario, said in an interview that Beijing had issued sanctions rather than investigating evidence of abuses.

“Instead of allowing unfettered, independent access, they respond with sanctions,” he said. “And I think that says everything you need to know about these issues.”

“We have a responsibility to speak up for human rights abroad, for those people who are being subjected to gross human rights violations,” he added. “And if that means that China sanctions me, I wear it as a badge of honour.”

The sanctions bar Mr. Chong and members of the subcommittee from doing business with Chinese citizens or entering China, Hong Kong or Macau.

Mr. Chong was born in Canada, but his father was born in Hong Kong and his grandparents are buried in China.

“And I am now not allowed to go and visit their graves,” he said.

“Our fight is not with the Chinese people. It’s with the Chinese Communist Party and its gross violations of human rights in Xinjiang, and its genocide against the Uyghur people and its crackdown and violation of an international treaty in Hong Kong.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau issued a statement Saturday deploring the Chinese action.

“China’s sanctions against Canadian parliamentarians and democratic institutions are unacceptable and an attack on transparency and freedom of expression,” he said.

He added the government will work with Parliament and allies in defence of democracy and freedom of speech.

“We need to stand together to remind those who violate human and democratic rights that the world is watching,” he said.

With a report from Robert Fife in Ottawa.

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