New Zealand’s human rights disputes with China are increasingly “difficult to reconcile,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday, after Wellington was criticized for not defying her more great business partner.
Ardern’s government has criticized his modest criticism of China’s rights record, which has led to accusations that New Zealand is a weak link in the US-led Five Eyes intelligence network.
In a speech at a Chinese business summit in Auckland, Ardern said New Zealand had previously raised “serious concerns” with China about the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province and had gone. pronounced on the erosion of democratic freedoms in Hong Kong.
But the center-left leader said Wellington had an independent foreign policy and was free to choose whether to report these issues publicly or in private discussions with Chinese officials.
Regardless of how human rights concerns were addressed, Ardern admitted there were issues that China and New Zealand would never agree to.
“It will not have escaped anyone here as as China’s role in the world grows and evolves, the differences between our systems – and the interests and values that shape those systems – become more and more evident. more difficult to reconcile, ”she said.
“This is a challenge that we, and many other countries in the Indo-Pacific region, but also in Europe and other regions, are also grappling with. “
Ardern said pointing out areas of divergence with Beijing is integral to New Zealand staying true to who we are as a nation.
“We have to recognize that there are things that China and New Zealand cannot, cannot and will not agree to,” she said.
“It doesn’t have to derail our relationship, it’s just a reality. “
– ‘Swimming in the New Zealand lane’ –
New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta expressed concern last month over the decades-old Five Eyes Alliance – made up of the US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand – for going beyond its mandate to share information among member countries.
It came just months after Trade Minister Damien O’Connor urged Australia to show more “respect” to Beijing following New Zealand’s signing of a free-trade agreement. improved exchange with China.
New Zealand officials have also been careful not to directly criticize China’s growing influence in the Pacific, unlike their US and Australian counterparts.
In contrast, Canberra’s harsh criticism of Beijing on issues such as Hong Kong and the need to investigate the origins of Covid-19 has spurred punitive levies on more than a dozen Australian imports, including wine. and barley.
Ardern said it is in China’s interest to act in a manner consistent with its international responsibilities.
“As a significant power, how China treats its partners is important to us,” she added.
While Ardern’s remarks may reassure the other Five Eyes countries that New Zealand shares their concerns about China, she made it clear that Wellington will continue to chart her own course and will not feel obligated to do so. joint declarations.
“I am often asked which lane we swim in – we swim in the New Zealand corridor,” she said.
© 2021 AFP