CARBIS BAY, ENGLAND (REUTERS) – Group of Seven leaders called on China to respect human rights in its Xinjiang region, allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy and refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilise the East and South China Seas, according to a draft version of the G7 summit communique seen by Reuters.
The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geopolitical events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.
But the return of China as a global power has unnerved the United States: President Joe Biden casts China as the main strategic competitor and has vowed to confront China’s “economic abuses” and push back against human rights violations.
“We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the G7 said in a communique that was almost finalised.
Before the G-7 criticism emerged, China pointedly cautioned G7 leaders that the days when “small” groups of countries decided the fate of the world was long gone.
The G-7 also said they underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.”
“We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions.”
“We also call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 Covid-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China,” the communique, which is almost finalised, said.
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London said earlier: “The days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone.”
“We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled through consultation by all countries.”
Beijing has repeatedly hit back against what it perceives as attempts by Western powers to contain China, and says many major powers are still gripped by an outdated imperial mindset after years of humiliating China.
UB experts and rights groups estimate over a million people, mainly Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, have been detained in recent years in a vast system of camps in Xinjiang.
China denies all accusations of forced labour or abuse. It initially denied the camps existed, but has since said they are vocational centres and are designed to combat extremism.
In late 2019, China said all people in the camps had “graduated”.
US President Joe Biden said last month he had ordered aides to find answers to the origin of the virus. He asked for another update in 90 days.
Intelligence agencies in the United States are considering two likely scenarios – that the virus resulted from a laboratory accident or that it emerged from human contact with an infected animal – but they have not come to a conclusion, Mr Biden said.
A still-classified intelligence report circulated during former president Donald Trump’s administration alleged that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology fell so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care, US government sources have said.
China has strongly denied any of the three were ill or that the lab was the source of the pandemic.
A WHO-led research mission on Wuhan early this year concluded the Sars-CoV-2 virus most likely spilled over to humans from animals – either directly from a bat or via another mammal, possibly one sold at the Huanan seafood and fresh produce market in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei.