While the measure approved in Brussels on Monday targets Myanmar’s junta officials and people behind human rights violations in Russia’s Chechnya region, it also is the first action against China in over three decades, as it sanctions officials and a state-run entity.
The decision came as EU foreign ministers agreed on a series of different sanctions against various countries and entities including individuals in North Korea, Eritrea, South Sudan and Libya.
Brussels is set to place four Chinese officials and one state-run entity on a blacklist over Beijing’s crackdown on the Uighur minority after ambassadors gave the go-ahead last week.
The last move from the EU against China was an arms embargo in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
China’s foreign ministry on the other hand has warned that Beijing will “react with a firm hand” against any punishment over its actions in the western Xinjiang region.
China has been accused of keeping Uighur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in detention camps, where human rights violations have been taking place as part of a government campaign to forcibly assimilate the communities.
"This is a very important step which shows how committed we are," Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said.
The sanctions on Myanmar officials will include visa bans and asset freezing, over the military coup last month that has landed the country in turmoil with a violent crackdown on protestors.
"What we see there in terms of excesses of violence is absolutely unacceptable," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said speaking about Myanmar. "That is why we will not be able to avoid imposing sanctions."
The sanctions are being considered the most significant response from the EU so far against the coup, after which 250 people have lost their lives.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies