Swiss to get tougher on China human rights, says minister

Switzerland is concerned about the shrinking democratic space in Hong Kong. It has also stopped a planned defence delivery by Swiss company Ruag. Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis has criticised China over Hong Kong and minority rights but says the country must be treated with respect.

This content was published on March 21, 2021

Commenting on Switzerland’s new China strategy unveiled on Friday, Cassis told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that Bern would be more critical on human rights and that this represented a policy shift. He said "things are now called by name” and that tackling human rights was no longer an exclusive task of the foreign ministry but of the entire government.

Cantons, cities, science and business can also make a contribution to the protection of fundamental rights, Cassis told the paper. "With the involvement of all actors we hope to have a greater persuasive force on the issue of human rights.”

Asked about China’s Hong Kong policy, the foreign minister said Switzerland was concerned about the shrinking of democratic rights. On the issue of human rights abuses against China’s Uighurs, he replied that it was a clear violation of minority rights and that Switzerland has made its concerns clear to Beijing.

Defence deal blocked

Meanwhile, the federal government has banned state-owned defence firm Ruag from supplying ammunition to the Hong Kong police, reports the SonntagsBlick newspaper. The company had planned to supply cartridges mainly used for military sniper rifles, but an oversight group from different government departments has decided that there is too great a risk of this ammunition being used against civilians.

Hong Kong security forces have clamped down on a wave of pro-democracy protests as China tightened its grip on the former British colony.  

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