Norway’s youth parties call for end of free trade talks with China

Activists in Brussels protest against China’s policies towards Uyghurs on Feb. 6, 2021. Photo credit: Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

The youth wings of Norway’s main political parties recently signed a letter calling Norway to rescind its normalization agreement with China and halt free trade negotiations due to China’s human rights violations. 

In the letter dated 9 February, a union of four Norwegian advocacy groups including the Norwegian Uyghur Committee, Hong Kong Committee in Norway, Norwegian Tibet Committee, and the Norwegian Taiwan Friendship Association, accuse the government of Norway of compromising democratic values to negotiate a free trade agreement and listed Beijing’s human rights violations in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet.

The letter states that when dictatorship is not opposed, it helps to legitimize and strengthen it, and never before in world history has a dictatorship had so much economic and political power as China has today.

The letter is signed by leaders from eight out of nine Norwegian youth wing political parties currently represented in the Norweigan parliament and they argue that “through a free trade agreement, we are not only contributing to strengthening this dictatorship, but to further undermining Norwegian democracy and the Norwegian space for expression.”

Norway and China restored their diplomatic relations in 2016 after China in 2010 froze them due to the Norweigan Nobel committee awarding Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the Nobel Peace Prize. A deal has yet to materialize but the Norwegian Industry Minister stated in September last year that he was hopeful that the two nations could sign a free trade agreement by the end of the year.

The recent letter calls for the end of trade talks and the cancelation of the 2016 normalization agreement in which the two nations restored their diplomatic ties. The letter states that with the normalization agreement, “Norway renounces the right to criticize the Chinese authorities, and at the same time undermines the freedom of expression of Norwegian civil society.”

Adiljan Abdurihim, secretary of the non-profit Norwegian Uyghur Committee says that it is a question about Norway’s future and the values the country stands for. Adding that with the letter they are suggesting to the Norwegian government that it is okay to have economic relations with China but it should be on Norway’s terms.

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