UN report on Uighurs "opens door for new steps" says FM
Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib stated this morning that the report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Uighurs in China "opens the door for new steps to ensure respect for international human rights obligations." She did not go into detail about what those new steps might mean.
Minister Lahbib gave the opening speech at the diplomatic contact days in Brussels this morning. After a question from one of the diplomats about the policy towards China, the minister came back to the report. The report appeared last week and confirmed that China is guilty of serious human rights violations in the autonomous region of Xinjiang. These include the large-scale and arbitrary detention of Muslims.
"Belgium takes the report very seriously. Its contents do not come as a surprise, but it gives the credible stories about serious human rights violations in Xinjiang a more official status," Minister Lahbib said. Consultations are ongoing with our partners on the contents of the report and on the follow-up to be given to the recommendations. The minister also recalled that sanctions had already been decided at European level.
China is a major power on the international stage, but its behaviour towards the Uighurs, for example, puts the Western partners - who like to insist on respect for human rights - in a delicate situation. "The 2019 strategic vision for EU-China relations remains our framework. In it, China is described as both a partner and a rival," Minister Lahbib summed it up. She stands for a "constructive, but also critical" relationship, in which "we make our red lines clear to China, without using a megaphone for that purpose".
At the same time, she sees room for improving certain tools. "We need to strengthen the European toolbox to better protect our values and interests. I am thinking of the screening of foreign investments. Finally, we need to strengthen our resilience and strategic autonomy, by strengthening our relations with the (other) countries in the region."
© BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE - Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib.