China on Friday slammed the European Union’s “confrontational approach” after MEPs (Members of European Parliament) voted to block a landmark investment deal over Beijing’s tit-for-tat sanctions against EU lawmakers.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Beijing’s sanctions were a “necessary and justified response” to previous EU measures against Chinese officials over human rights concerns in Xinjiang.

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

To the surprise of many, the European Union and China in late December approved a major investment pact, wrapping up seven years of painstaking negotiations thanks to a final push by Germany.

But the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly Thursday to refuse any consideration of the EU-China investment deal as long as Chinese sanctions against MEPs and scholars were in place.

“China has imposed sanctions on relevant institutions and personnel of the EU who spread Xinjiang-related lies and false information and who have seriously damaged China’s sovereignty and interests,” Zhao said at a regular press briefing.

He urged the EU to “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, abandon its confrontational approach” and push EU-China relations “back to the right track of dialogue and cooperation.”

Zhao Lijian. File photo: GovCN.

Defenders of the pact see it as a much needed opening of China’s economy to European companies, but it is set to face a difficult ratification among the 27 member states, as well as the European Parliament.

Ties between the EU and China soured suddenly in March after an angry exchange of sanctions over human rights concerns.

The EU sanctioned four Chinese officials over suspected human rights violations in China’s far northwestern region of Xinjiang.

Beijing responded by imposing its own sanctions against European politicians, scholars and research groups.

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