At a meeting on Tuesday, China’s and Russia’s foreign ministers reaffirmed their countries’ strong relations in the face of harsh criticism and fresh Western sanctions over human rights violations.
Outside sniping at their oppressive political regimes was dismissed by Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov, who said they were trying to advance global progress on topics ranging from climate change to the coronavirus pandemic.
Wang and Lavrov met for the first time on Monday in the southern Chinese city of Nanning, accusing the US of interfering in other countries’ affairs and urging it to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, which President Joe Biden’s new administration has approached with caution. Both Russia and China have strong links to Tehran, with whom they share a firm stance against any political opposition.
The two officials continued their rhetoric at a news conference on Tuesday, where Wang slammed coordinated sanctions imposed on Chinese officials by the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States over human rights violations in China’s far western Xinjiang region.
“Countries should band together to condemn unilateral sanctions of some kind,” Wang said. “The international community will not accept these measures.”
The two ministers said in a joint statement released after the meeting that no country should try to force its version of democracy on others.
“Interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign nation under the guise of ‘advancing democracy’ is unacceptable,” the statement said.
China claims that members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have willingly participated in work training and de-radicalization courses, rejecting reports that over 1 million people have been imprisoned in prison-like reeducation camps where they are forced to abandon their native culture and swear allegiance to the ruling Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping. Abuses, such as slave labour and coercive birth control, are said to be ongoing by media outlets, international governments, and advocacy groups.
China retaliated quickly to the EU’s move by placing sanctions on ten European individuals and four institutions it claimed had harmed China’s interests and “maliciously spread lies and disinformation.” They were prohibited from visiting mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao, and were barred from communicating with Chinese financial institutions.
While anti-government violence had occurred in Xinjiang in the past, Beijing claims that its massive security crackdown has brought stability in recent years.
During the Cold War, China and Russia were competitors for communist world leadership, but they have established a close relationship in recent years based on opposition to the US-led liberal order and collaboration in military affairs, technology, and natural resource exchange. China’s ruling Communist Party requires no political opposition and maintains a tight grip on civil society, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has repressed people who advocate for a more democratic regime.
For years, Russia has been sanctioned by the West due to its annexation of Crimea, support for separatists in western Ukraine, and attacks on government opponents.
The new EU sanctions against China are similar to the Magnitsky Act, a piece of Obama-era legislation that allows the US government to blacklist people it considers to be human rights violators, freeze their assets, and bar them from entering the country.
Last week, China and the United States held tense talks in Hawaii, while US-Russia ties took a hit on Thursday after Putin retaliated against Biden’s portrayal of him as a murderer.
In a joint statement released Tuesday, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and her New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta expressed their concern about the human rights situation in western China and joined calls for an independent investigation.
“Today, we emphasize the importance of openness and accountability, and we reiterate our call on China to provide meaningful and unrestricted access to Xinjiang for UN experts and other independent observers,” according to the document.
The United States of America A unified response, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “sends a clear warning to those who violate or exploit international human rights, and we will take more measures in collaboration with likeminded partners.”
In apparent retaliation for Canada’s detention of Meng Wanzhou, a senior executive of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei, in December 2019, China recently placed two Canadian citizens, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, on trial. There have been no decisions made. The US wants Meng extradited to face fraud charges, which has angered China, which sees her detention as political.
According to Canadian broadcaster CTV, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied any connection between his country’s support for the sanctions and the fates of Spavor and Kovrig. China has charged Spavor and Kovrig with conspiring to steal Chinese state secrets, but has given no evidence and has excluded the media and diplomats from the proceedings.
Trudeau told CTV, “We’ve been deploring the unlawful detention of the two Michaels (Kovrig and Spavor) for a long time, and we’ve been working with our allies around the world on this subject.” “On a side note, we, along with our foreign partners, are very concerned about the situation that Muslim minorities face in western China.”