“A free trade agreement with China could lead to Norway being more exposed to economic pressure”, warn human rights groups ahead of Wang Yi’s visit to Oslo.
The Chinese Foreign Minister will be in Norway on Thursday for talks with Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide (H).
There are a number of issues up for discussions, such as the corona pandemic, Norway’s membership of the UN Security Council over the next two years, the High North, the oceans and the climate. But also the negotiations with China on a free trade agreement will be an important topic.
Human rights groups are now warning Norway against naivety in the talks.
“We see a danger that Norway will be more exposed to economic pressure”, says Arne Melsom, board member of the Hong Kong Committee in Norway.
“The more dependent we are on China, the more exposed we become”, he says.
Skewed relationship Melsom points out that Norway is small compared to the economic powerhouse China.
“It will be a very skewed relationship. China uses the economy and international trade more or less as blackmail in its foreign policy”, he states.
Earlier this year, the Hong Kong Committee, the Uighur Committee, and the Tibet Committee wrote several joint letters to the Ministry of Trade and Industry in which they elaborated on their concerns. In the letters, they warn Norway against entering into a free trade agreement with China that weakens Norwegian independence or leads to human rights being subordinated for economic gain.
“As a micro-partner in an agreement with China, a large trading volume will make the Norwegian economy very vulnerable to threats and conflicts,” they warn in a letter dated 16th June.
“Norway is already bending”
The three activist groups list several examples of how they believe China has threatened Norway and other countries to silence criticism.
After the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Norway was put in the diplomatic freezer, and Norwegian business and industry had major problems in China.
The conflict ended with a controversial normalization agreement in 2016 in which Norway undertook to refrain from supporting actions that undermine China’s core interests.
The activist groups also point out how the government refused to meet the Dalai Lama when he visited Norway in 2014, and how Guri Melby (V) was denied entry to the Stortinget in connection with a Chinese visit in 2019 because she was wearing a T-shirt with the text « Freedom » in Norwegian and Chinese.
“Norway is already bowing to untimely pressure, a free trade agreement that separates us from Europe will expose us more,” the three groups wrote in a letter from 10th May.
Adiljan Abdurihim of the Norwegian Uighur Committee believes that Norway must be more outspoken towards China. He believes Norwegian politicians have practiced self-censorship to avoid stepping on China’s toes.
“We see that it is a passivity”, says Abdurihim.
“China is accused of holding more than a million Uighurs in prison-like detention camps. At the same time, there are reports of both forced labor and forced sterilization”, points out Abdurihim, who is now asking Eriksen Søreide to raise these issues with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that human rights issues will be raised at the meeting.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today