China sanctions UK academic in Xinjiang row

Newcastle University scholar says she ‘will not be silenced’

March 26, 2021
KASHGAR, XINJIANG / China - October 4, 2017: Three elderly men of the Uyghur minority having a conversation at a street in Kashgar Old Town. Chinese flags are mounted on the house in the background.
Source: iStock

An academic at Newcastle University is one of several UK individuals and organisations who have been sanctioned by China for “maliciously spreading lies and disinformation” about Xinjiang.

Jo Smith Finley, reader in Chinese studies, has been active in researching about China’s persecution of Uighurs and other members of predominantly Muslim minority groups.

In a post on Twitter, Dr Smith Finley said: “I have no regrets for speaking out, and I will not be silenced.”

Several British politicians and lawyers, including former leader of the Conservative party Iain Duncan Smith, have also been sanctioned by China. It follows a similar punishment by China against several individuals and organisations in continental Europe, including the Berlin-based Mercator Institute for China Studies (Merics) and two academics.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said that the named individuals and their family members were banned from entering China, Hong Kong or Macau and that Chinese citizens and institutions would be prohibited from doing business with them.

The sanctions are a response to the UK’s decision this week to join the US, Canada and the European Union in taking measures against four Chinese officials alleged to have been involved in a campaign of persecution against the Uighurs.

An article Dr Smith Finley wrote titled “Why Scholars and Activists Increasingly Fear a Uyghur Genocide in Xinjiang”, published in the Journal of Genocide Research in November, has been viewed more than 5,000 times.

Along with other researchers at Newcastle University, she has also organised a three-day conference titled “The Xinjiang Crisis: Genocide, Ethnocide or Crimes Against Humanity?”, which is set to take place in September.

Dr Smith Finley is also an “expert country witness” in Uighur asylum cases in the UK, Europe, the US and Canada, according to her profile on the university’s website, and advises legal firms, refugee support organisations, government departments and non-governmental organisations.

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