Saturday, May 25th, 2024

Paris: Campaigners from Tibet, Xinjiang protest when Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in France

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival in France saw a demonstration of activism in Paris on Sunday as campaigners from Tibet and Xinjiang gathered to highlight concerns over human rights abuses in the regions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is on his first visit to Europe in half a decade, with his trip expected to revolve around Russia’s war in Ukraine and economic tensions between Beijing and Brussels. His itinerary begins in France, where he is scheduled to hold discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Paris on Monday, before heading to the Pyrenees region, Al Jazeera reports.

After his time in France, Xi will visit Serbia and Hungary, countries that have maintained strong ties with Russia despite its massive invasion of Ukraine, in February 2022.

Chinese state media reported on Xi’s arrival in Paris, showing streets decorated with both Chinese and French flags and groups of Chinese citizens welcoming their president. However, amid the festive atmosphere, campaigners from Tibet and Xinjiang, where the United Nations has raised concerns about possible crimes against humanity, also took to the streets of the capital.

Activists advocating for Tibet and Xinjiang, areas where the United Nations has raised concerns about potential crimes against humanity, were also present on the streets of the capital.

In March 2021, the EU imposed targeted sanctions on some Chinese officials and companies over the situation in Xinjiang, drawing a strong reaction from Beijing.

Human Rights Watch urged French President Macron to publicly address these issues during Xi’s visit to Paris, calling for the release of arbitrarily detained individuals, including Uyghur economist and Sakharov Prize recipient Ilham Tohti was also included.

The organization stressed that Macron should also express concern about Tibet and Hong Kong, highlighting the repression of Tibetan children in boarding schools and the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong due to harsh security laws.

“President Macron should make clear to Xi Jinping that Beijing’s crimes against humanity will have consequences for China’s relations with France,” Maya Wang, acting China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “France’s silence and inaction on human rights will only fuel the Chinese government’s sense of impunity for its abuses, leading to further repression at home and abroad.”

At a meeting at the Elysee Palace on 30 April, Macron was pictured with Penpa Tsering, President of the Tibetan government-in-exile, who urged him not to forget Tibet. The agenda between the two presidents was expected to address various international crises, but advocates stressed the importance of including discussion on human rights issues.

“We understand that the agenda between the two presidents will be intense given the multiple international crises such as Ukraine and the Middle East, but this should not be done at the expense of exchanges on human rights, which are in a dismal state across the country. as well as in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, where a secret conflict has been ongoing for more than 60 years and poses a threat to regional and international security,” said EU Policy Director for the International Campaign for Tibet Vincent Metten said in a statement, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Freedom House’s 2024 report on freedom in the world revealed Tibet’s dismal score of zero out of 100, indicating a serious decline in freedom over the past eight years.

Maryse Artiguelong, Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), said: “The conflict in Ukraine highlights the threat posed to international order and security by authoritarian regimes such as Russia and the People’s Republic of China. “Their aggressive foreign policies and repressive domestic policies are interconnected: anyone who does not oppose China’s human rights violations risks one day facing its aggressive foreign policy.”

France stressed that the conflict in Ukraine and other regions, including Beijing’s neutral stance on Ukraine but failure to condemn Moscow’s aggression, remains an important topic of discussion during the talks, Al Jazeera reported. will be.

Macron, known for his firm stance on European security, will urge Xi to exert influence over Russian President Putin regarding the situation in Ukraine.

To underline European unity, von der Leyen will take part in Monday’s discussion, which is scheduled to begin shortly after 11 a.m. (09:00 GMT). In addition to the Ukraine conflict, Europe is troubled by Chinese commercial activities, which has led to an investigation into China’s subsidies for electric vehicle makers amid concerns of unfair competition and adverse effects on European companies.

Ahead of Xi’s departure last week, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Lin Jian said that Beijing would “like France and the EU to take this meeting as an opportunity to make China-EU relations more strategic, stable, Ready to work together.” , Constructive and mutually beneficial, promote stable and sustained progress in China-EU relations, and contribute to the prosperity of both China and Europe and a peaceful world.

After his visit to France, Xi will travel to Serbia and arrive in Belgrade on the 25th anniversary of the Chinese Embassy bombing. He will join discussions with President Aleksandar Vucic. The bombing occurred during a NATO air campaign against Serb forces in Kosovo, resulting in three deaths and sparking outrage in China.

Despite not being a member of the European Union, Serbia has attracted substantial investment from China, which is now its largest source of investment. According to Al Jazeera, ahead of the visit, MOFA spokesperson Lin described relations between the two countries as “firm”.

“The bombing remains an important topic for Chinese authorities, who use it to support narratives that question the values ​​of liberal democracies,” said Stefan Vladislavjev, program director of the Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society, in an online “For Serbia, this visit presents an opportunity to strengthen its position as China’s main partner in the Western Balkans,” the analysis wrote.

Xi will visit Budapest on May 8 to conclude his Europe visit. There he will hold talks with Hungarian President Viktor Orban, who is known for his close ties with Russia within the EU.

Hungary’s policies, over which other EU members have raised concerns, have seen the country align more closely with Beijing and Moscow. Recently, Hungary signed a security cooperation agreement with China, allowing Chinese police officers to operate in areas with significant ethnic Chinese populations or in popular Chinese tourist destinations. The move has sparked apprehension among exiles and dissidents elsewhere, particularly in Europe.

Additionally, Hungary is a member of China’s Belt and Road Initiative since 2015. Xi and Orban are expected to discuss topics such as the ongoing construction of a high-speed rail link between Budapest and Belgrade, Al Jazeera reports.

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