ZURICH: Switzerland has summoned the Chinese ambassador to express concern about the human rights situation in the western region of Xinjiang, the foreign ministry in Bern said on Thursday (Sep 8).
“Switzerland is convinced that the best way to safeguard its interests and the respect of fundamental rights is to conduct a critical and constructive dialogue with Beijing,” the ministry said, confirming a report by the SDA news agency.
The ministry cited a report last week by the United Nations human rights commissioner that China’s “arbitrary and discriminatory detention” of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may constitute crimes against humanity.
China’s foreign ministry has denied the allegations and described the UN report as “completely illegal and void”.
The Chinese embassy did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Neutral Switzerland has walked a diplomatic tightrope with Beijing, playing down prospects for embracing Western sanctions against China over its human rights record as Bern pursues a “special path” with a major trade partner.
In unveiling a new strategy on China last year, Bern announced few concrete policy changes and stressed the importance of bilateral ties. But it spoke more openly about its disapproval of China’s human rights record than it has tended to do in the past.
In 1950, Switzerland was one of the first Western countries to recognise Communist China. Since 2010, China has been its biggest trading partner in Asia and its third-largest globally after the European Union and the United States.
A bilateral free trade agreement took effect in July 2014, and the two countries this year launched a joint platform for stock listings and trading.