The Brief: EU-China relations amid Uighur row

The Brief: EU-China relations amid Uighur row
Copyright APJean-Francois Badias
Copyright AP
By Elena Cavallone, Meabh McMahon
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EU-China relations amid Uighur human rights row


A political statement to pile up pressure on China. This week European Parliament delivered the Sakharov prize for the freedom of expression to the daughter of Ilham Thoti. The economist is currently jailed because of his activity in defending the rights of the Muslim minority in China. The EP asked for his immediate release and the closure of the detention camps in China.

“We would wish for the better relations with this country that we will see a reaction certainly an immediate release of Ilham Thoti and also to let the international community to watch what’s actually is going on. They claim it is a reeducation, it’s voluntary. We would like to see that," says Michael Gahler (Germany, EPP).

The Chinese ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming wasted no time in responding to the accusation to our reporter.

“What is happening at the Parliament is a farce. I think they don’t know what they are saying because their words are baseless. In China, we don’t have the so-called education camps. So what we are doing is to maintain the security, safety, and stability for our society”.

On the one hand, the EU institutions are pressing Beijing to respect human rights, while on the other some EU countries are ready to open their doors to Chinese investments. Janka Oertel Director of Asia programme at European Council of Foreign Relations explains why at the moment the EU has no common position vis-à-vis China.

“Member States definitely do not want to give up on the potential of the Chinese market because it is the most important and growing business opportunity for a lot of the companies involved. So what you might label as schizophrenic, is at the same time just also and edging strategy in a changing a geostrategic landscape where European companies and European governments have to redefine their role in the world and their place in the world."

The challenge for the EU is to draw a new common strategy for China by the next EU-China summit in September.

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