Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations singled out China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority and expressed concern over Russia’s large military build-up on Ukraine’s borders, according to a draft communique.
“We continue to be deeply concerned about human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang and in Tibet, especially the targeting of Uyghurs, members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, and the existence of a large-scale network of “political re-education” camps, and reports of forced labour systems and forced sterilisation,” the ministers will say following two days of talks in London.
While the language used on the Asian superpower echoes former G-7 statements, the long list of concerns and the specific mention of Taiwan will irritate the Chinese government: “We support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in World Health Organisation forums and the World Health Assembly.”
The document also singled out Russia’s actions of “undermining other countries’ democratic systems, its malicious cyber activity, and use of disinformation.” The G-7 renewed calls on Russia to investigate its alleged use of chemical weapons in the poisoning of Alexey Navalny.
“We reiterate our interest in stable and predictable relations with Russia. We nevertheless will continue to bolster our collective capabilities and those of our partners to address and deter Russian behaviour that is threatening the rules-based international order, including in the areas of cyberspace security and disinformation.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken brought a proposal to counter what the White House sees as China’s economic coercion. Officials meeting on Tuesday spent some 90 minutes discussing ways in which China tries to exert leverage over governments and individuals through the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative or by leveling economic threats, according to a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The talks took place as attitudes toward China are hardening in Germany, France and Italy—the three European Union countries that participate in the G-7. They are beginning to move into closer alignment with the Biden administration, though the U.S. remains a fair bit more hawkish.
As host of the G-7, the U.K. seeks to strike a balance on China, calling out its alleged human rights abuses while keeping the door open to areas of cooperation, such as on climate change. The challenge for Boris Johnson’s government is to avoid framing the G-7 as anti-China under his presidency.
The U.K. has left the EU and wants to strike trade deals of its own around the world, including with the U.S. and India. European nations are also seeking to walk a fine like between holding China to account on its human-rights record while not alienating a key economic partner.
The London meeting also took in discussions on climate, global health, famine, the education of girls and the future allocation of Covid-19 vaccines to poorer nations. Foreign ministers also talked about Iran, Syria, Russia and African nations.
Early Wednesday there was a question mark over whether the meetings could carry on in person after members of the Indian delegation—asked to attend to mark the focus on the Indo-Pacific region—tested positive for the virus and had to self-isolate.
That drama threw the spotlight onto plans for bigger gatherings later in the years with increased numbers of delegates, including a G-7 leaders’ summit in Cornwall, England next month.