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China's ambassador warns Swiss 'relations will suffer' if it adopts EU sanctions

Chinese Ambassador to Switzerland, Wang Shihting.

Chinese ambassador to Switzerland has cautioned Bern against following the European Union in imposing sanctions on Beijing if it cares about Swiss-Sino relations.

In an interview with NZZamSonntag magazine published on Sunday, Wang Shihting warned that such a move could have consequences for relations between the two countries.

He said any responsible person, who really cared, would be opposed to the sanctions slapped against China.

“Anyone who really cares about the friendly relations between the two countries and who makes responsible polities will not agree to the sanctions,” said Shihting. 

“If Switzerland takes over the sanctions and the situation develops in an uncontrolled direction, Sino-Swiss relations will suffer.”

Last year, the European Union (EU) imposed sanctions on several Chinese officials and organizations over allegations of human rights abuses.

Switzerland, which is not a member state of the continental bloc, has not yet followed the EU line despite mounting pressure from parliamentarians and civil society to do so.

In early September, the UN Human Rights Office in Geneva published a report that found “credible evidence” of torture and sexual violence against the Uyghur minority in western China. 

The Chinese ambassador rejected the report saying it was “based entirely on lies and rumors”, adding that the “whole thing is an absurd farce funded by the US and Western anti-China forces.”

Uyghur political manipulation

China has in the past warned the US to “stop conducting political manipulation” of the ethnic group of Uyghur Muslims, which make up about 45 percent of the population in the Xinjiang region.

Washington has banned imports from China's Xinjiang region over reports of Uyghurs being victims of cultural, religious, and economic discrimination, held in labor camps for forced industrial activity.

Beijing has repeatedly rejected the claims that Uyghurs are unfairly treated in the country, saying it is addressing the issues of underdevelopment and unemployment in Uyghur-populated areas such as Xinjiang.

Switzerland has shared strong political and economic ties with China. In 1950, it was one of the first western countries to recognize the People’s Republic of China.

Switzerland is also one of the only European countries to have signed a free trade agreement with China. China has since 2010 been its biggest trading partner in Asia and its third-largest globally after the EU and the United States.

However, the Swiss government has been more vocal on the human rights situation in China recently, which has riled up Beijing.

Shihting rejected reports that talks to extend the free trade agreement with China have stalled and said the two countries continue to have discussions on it.

“The free trade agreement is economically oriented, human rights are not an issue,” the envoy was quoted as saying.

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