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Human rights addressed at Slovak–Chinese talks

HUMAN rights made it onto the agenda of issues discussed between Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák and a Chinese delegation visiting Slovakia on February 15. Though the primary goal of the Chinese delegation, which included Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Hui Liangyu, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Sung Tchao and Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Sheng Chung, was to explore new avenues of cooperation with a focus on energy, nuclear safety and technological installations, Lajčák raised the issue of human rights in response to an appeal by 33 opposition MPs.

HUMAN rights made it onto the agenda of issues discussed between Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák and a Chinese delegation visiting Slovakia on February 15. Though the primary goal of the Chinese delegation, which included Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Hui Liangyu, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Sung Tchao and Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs Sheng Chung, was to explore new avenues of cooperation with a focus on energy, nuclear safety and technological installations, Lajčák raised the issue of human rights in response to an appeal by 33 opposition MPs.

Human rights activists, who have acknowledged China’s significance in the world economic arena, praised the move, but also suggested that Slovakia could have stressed the issue even more.

“We are a democratic country and a member of the EU, which means that we fully respect the values on which the union is built, while one of these is human rights,” Lajčák told the press when explaining his reasons for mentioning the opposition appeal.

According to Lajčák, Liangyu responded that China is not hesitant about discussing the issue and that he recognises its importance.

“It is the duty of political representatives of democratic countries in contact with Chinese representatives to open up the issue of human rights,” Ondrej Dostál, of the Conservative Institute of M. R. Štefánik, told The Slovak Spectator, adding that China is a world superpower, something which Slovakia cannot ignore, and that efforts toward developing economic ties with China are acceptable. “However, it is not correct to forget about the human rights violations in China and the fact that there is a communist regime in the country.”

While the organisation People in Peril (PIP) said it appreciated the initiative of the 33 opposition deputies who called on Lajčák to discuss human rights, it also noted that the ministry has yet to inform the public of the details of the discussion, and which specific issues were touched upon, Jana Kerelová, the executive director of PIP told The Slovak Spectator.

Both Kerelová and Dostál noted that there is no information available on whether President Ivan Gašparovič or Robert Fico broached the subject of human rights.

Parliamentarians, in their appeal, pointed to the existence of labour camps which, in their words, have held as many as three to five million political prisoners, and called for their closure as well as the abolition of forced labour. The opposition also raised the issue of the persecution of members of Falun Gong, in reference to a European Parliament resolution that condemned the imprisonment and torture of its members in China. The appeal also demanded the release of Christian lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who was detained by the Chinese government, as well as the reinstatement of his law licence, according to the SITA newswire.

“We do not see this initiative as a criticism of China but as a condemnation of crimes which contradict humanity and the basic moral values of civilisation,” the appeal reads, as quoted by SITA.

A handful of Falun Gong supporters from the Slovak association of Falun Gong protested in front of the Presidential Palace on February 15, and demanded a debate over human rights violations in China, SITA reported.

Nevertheless, the visit was largely focused on the economic ties between the countries, as the representatives also spoke about China’s ambition to invest $10 million in cooperation projects with Slovakia and 15 other countries in central and eastern Europe. Other topics related to possible cooperation between China and the Visegrad Four group, involving Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in the European arena, as well as common interest in overcoming the current economic crisis, the ministry’s press release stated.

“We realise China’s global role in the economy as well as Slovakia’s need to diversify its foreign trade, and China is a potential partner,” Lajčák said in a press release.

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