Dutch foreign minister meets Chinese counterpart

AP , Wednesday 26 Aug 2020

Stef Blok & Wang Yi
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Stef Blok (R) welcomes his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi (L) at Duivenvoorde Castle in Voorschoten, the Netherlands on August 26, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok met Wednesday with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, saying he would discuss topics ranging from trade ties to concerns about human rights violations in China and the contentious national security law for Hong Kong.

Wang's visit to the Netherlands is part of his five nation tour of Europe this week that also includes France, Germany and Norway. On Tuesday, he met his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio, who told Wang China needs to ``preserve the high degree of autonomy and the fundamental rights and freedoms'' guaranteed to Hong Kong citizens.

Blok said ahead of his meeting with Wang that he would also discuss the issue, as well as concerns about the treatment of the Uighur minority in China's far west Xinjiang region.

The ministers did not take any questions from the media as their meeting started in a castle in a village outside The Hague.

China's national security law for Hong Kong is seen by many as Beijing's boldest move yet to break down legal barriers between the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong and the mainland's authoritarian Communist Party system.

Dutch lawmaker Martijn van Helvert, whose Christian Democrat Appeal party is a member of the current ruling coalition, used the visit to call for tougher action against Beijing.

``The Dutch government must be clear that there can be no resumption of `business as usual' with Beijing while the persecution of Uighur Muslims, Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in China continues,'' he said at a press conference with two Uighur activists.

Over the past four years, the Chinese government has detained an estimated 1 million or more members of ethnic Turkic minorities in Xinjiang, holding them in internment camps and prisons where they are subjected to ideological discipline, forced to denounce their religion and language and physically abused. China has long suspected the Uighurs, who are mostly Muslim, of harboring separatist tendencies because of their distinct culture, language and religion.

Van Helvert also criticized the national security law, saying that it ``criminalizes legitimate political activities and severely curtails individual freedoms'' and violates Hong Kong's autonomy.

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