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EU, US highlights human rights abuses in Tibet, Xinjiang

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(From L) President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen, US President Joe Biden and European Council President Charles Michel arrive for an EU - US summit at the European Union headquarters in Brussels on June 15, 2021. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

By Choekyi Lhamo

DHARAMSHALA, June 17: The European Union and US raised concerns over China’s human rights violation in Tibet and Xinjiang (East Turkestan) in a joint declaration issued on Tuesday. The summit held at Brussels between the EU and US was represented by European Council Charles Michel and President of European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, along with US President Joe Biden.  

The summit was aimed at “rebuilding a strong” EU-US alliance as it was the first visit of the new US President after his election; the last summit took place in May 2017. The leaders addressed a wide range of issues facing both the countries, including foreign affairs and the human rights situation in China. The declaration spoke of “our respective similar multi-faceted approaches” to Beijing that includes “elements of cooperation, competition, and systemic rivalry.” The declaration further mentioned the “ongoing human rights violations in Xinjiang and Tibet, the erosion of autonomy and democratic processes in Hong Kong; economic coercion; disinformation campaigns; and regional security issues.”

At the end of the summit, they said that both Brussels and Washington vow to “closely consult and cooperate” around the issues discussed here. President von der Leyen said during the press conference, “When it comes to human rights and human dignity we are systemic rivals. We have to speak out on that and it is very clear that it is the main issue that clearly divides us.” European Parliament also decided in May to freeze the massive EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investments until China lifts its sanctions on US lawmakers.

International Campaign for Tibet’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten applauded the mention of China’s ongoing abuses in their joint statement, “It is crucial that like-minded states continue to coordinate their foreign policies on China and show their determination to react and act together at the multilateral level to condemn the serious abuses on human rights done by Beijing and President Xi Jinping.” China on Wednesday responded saying that it firmly opposed the joint statement issued at the summit, as Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian remarked that “The US and EU should reflect on their own problems and are not qualified to lecture others [on domestic affairs].”

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