The foreign ministers of China and Russia displayed unity at their meeting Tuesday (March 23) amid criticism and Western sanctions against them over human rights.
Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov rejected outside sniping at their authoritarian political systems and said they were working to further global progress on issues from climate change to the coronavirus pandemic.
At their initial meeting in the southern Chinese city of Nanning on Monday, Wang and Lavrov accused the U.S. of interference in other countries’ affairs and urged it to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement, something that President Joe Biden’s new administration has approached cautiously. Russia and China both maintain close relations with Tehran.
The two officials continued that rhetoric at a news conference on Tuesday, where Wang sharply criticized coordinated sanctions brought by the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States against Chinese officials over human rights abuses in China’s far western Xinjiang region.
“Countries should stand together to oppose all forms of unilateral sanctions," Wang said. “These measures will not be embraced by the international community."
China says members of the Uyghur and other Muslim minority groups in Xinjiang have voluntarily taken part in job training and de-radicalization courses, denying charges that more than 1 million have been locked up in prison-like reeducation camps where they are forced to reject their native culture and pledge loyalty to the ruling Communist Party and its leader Xi Jinping. Media outlets, foreign governments and activist groups say abuses, including forced labor and coerced birth control, are ongoing.
China responded immediately Monday to the EU’s move by imposing sanctions on 10 European individuals and four institutions that it said had damaged China’s interests and “maliciously spread lies and disinformation.” They were barred from visiting mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao and banned from engaging in financial dealings with Chinese institutions.
Xinjiang had experienced anti-government violence, but Beijing claims its massive security crackdown brought peace in recent years.
China and Russia were rivals for leadership of the communist world during the Cold War but have built a strong relationship in recent years based on opposition to the U.S-led liberal order and cooperation in military affairs, technology and trade in natural resources. China's ruling Communist Party allows no political opposition and keeps a tight hold on civil society, while Russian leader Vladimir Putin has cracked down heavily on citizens calling for a more open system.
Russia has been under Western sanctions for years over its seizure of Crimea, support for separatists in western Ukraine, and attacks on government critics.
The new EU sanction system imposed on China is similar to the Magnitsky Act — Obama-era legislation that authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets and ban them from entering the United States.
China and the U.S. held contentious talks in Hawaii last week while U.S.-Russia relations took a severe hit on Thursday after Putin shot back at Biden’s description of him as a killer.