Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish Foreign Minister, told news media in an interview last Saturday, while on a 3-day visit to the US, that the treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in China is ‘very worrying’.
Haavisto’s remarks are unusual as Finnish ministers are typically cautious when publicly commenting on human rights issues in China, preferring to make their views known through diplomatic channels.
While Haavisto said that human rights issues play a part in relations with China, he also emphasised that Finland is waiting for a report from the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
Later the same day, Bachelet said the visit was “not an investigation” but rather ”an opportunity to hold direct discussions – with China’s most senior leaders – on human rights, to listen to each other, raise concerns, explore and pave the way for more regular, meaningful interactions in the future”. China is accused of placing up to two million Uyghurs into “re-education” centres in the Xinjiang Province.
Bachelet’s trip was criticised for playing into the hands of the Chinese PR campaign in light of revelations concerning China’s human rights abuses.
According to Haavisto, the Uighur matter will be discussed in the United Nations Human Rights Council, of which Finland currently is a member. The Council, created in 2006, includes 47 nations elected for a three-year period.