The measures come as the bloc accuses China of “serious human rights violations and abuses” of the Uyghur minority.
The European Union on Wednesday agreed to blacklist Chinese officials for human rights abuses, two diplomats said, the first sanctions against Beijing since the EU arms embargo in 1989 following of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square.
EU ambassadors have approved travel bans and asset freezes for four Chinese people and one entity, whose names will not be made public until formal approval by EU foreign ministers on March 22, as part of a new, broader list of rights sanctions.
“Restrictive measures against serious human rights violations and abuses have been adopted,” said an EU diplomat.
Chinese officials have been accused of human rights abuses against China’s Uyghur Muslim minority, European diplomats told Reuters news agency.
They said the move reflected deep concern about Uyghurs in Europe, the United States and Canada.
The EU last sanctioned China, its second largest trading partner, in June 1989, imposing an arms embargo on Beijing that is still in effect.
UN activists and rights experts say at least one million Muslims are being held in camps in the remote western region of Xinjiang. Activists and some Western politicians accuse China of using torture, forced labor and sterilization.
The Dutch parliament has followed Canada and the United States in calling China’s treatment of the genocide of the Uyghurs, which China rejects.
On Twitter, the Chinese mission to the EU reposted comments on the new sanctions handed down on Tuesday by Chinese ambassador to the bloc, Zhang Ming, saying Beijing would not change its policy.
“The sanctions are conflicting,” the Chinese mission said on Twitter. “We want a dialogue, not a confrontation. We ask the European side to think twice. If some insist on confrontation, we will not back down, for we have no choice but to shoulder our responsibilities to the people.
China denies any human rights violations in Xinjiang and says its camps provide vocational training and are necessary to “fight extremism.”
The EU’s full list of 11 names approved by EU ambassadors also includes officials from Russia, Libya, South Sudan and North Korea, diplomats said.