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28th May 2022

EU-China rights talks marred by deadly riots

EU diplomats met their Chinese counterparts in Guiyang to discuss human rights on Tuesday (25 June) as minorities clashed with police in the north-western part of the country, leaving scores dead.

The official Xinhua News Agency said riots in a remote town in the Turkic-speaking Xinjiang left 27 dead by early Wednesday morning.

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  • Tensions are high between Uighur (centre) and Han Chinese (Photo: Juha Riissanen)

Seventeen protestors were killed, including nine security officers and eight civilians. Police also shot and killed 10 others.

A large population of Muslim minority Uighurs live in the region, which has been the scene of previous deadly riots. In April, some 20 people were killed. Around 200 were killed in a 2009 uprising between the Han Chinese and Uighur communities.

The EU diplomats in Guiyang said they expressed concerns over a wide rang of human rights issues, including those of ethnic and religious minorities.

Led by a director from the European External Action Service, the EU delegation was taken on a field trip to a village in Guiyang - in south east China - where 97 percent of the population belongs to the Buyi ethnic group.

The EU officials later met with the Guiyang governor.

But for its part, the US-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the remote location of the dialogue in Guiyang is a ploy by the Chinese to weaken any meaningful dialogue.

“This is precisely the kind of ‘dialogue’ the Chinese government likes best: away from senior Chinese officials, away from the international press, and with little ambition from either side to apply rights protection to real life situations in China,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at HRW in Brussels, in a statement.

HRW says the EU commitment last year to weave human rights into its foreign policy has netted few results.

The organisation describes the EU pledge to back human rights defenders as “an empty gesture as far as Chinese activists are concerned.”

It says the EU has accepted demands by the Chinese government to hold human rights dialogue out of the public view in a low-level and non-transparent diplomatic exercise.

HRW says creating benchmarks to measure progress would be a more meaningful approach to the biannual dialogues held since 1995.

The EU, for its part, notes that the next round of human rights discussions will take place in Europe before the end of the year.

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