Wellington. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticized human rights abuses in China on Monday. In a speech to political and business representatives in Auckland, Ardern said New Zealand had expressed concern about China and also addressed the situation of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province.
“As China’s role in the world grows and changes, it becomes difficult to reconcile the differences between our systems with the interests and values that shaped those systems,” Ardern said.
The prime minister’s choice of words was moderate compared to other heads of government, but nonetheless meant a departure from previous dealings with China, New Zealand’s most important trading partner. In the past, Ardern has avoided direct criticism of Beijing.
New Zealand under pressure
New Zealand has come under pressure in the Secret Service Five Eyes coalition because it refused to speak with its partners about human rights issues in China. In addition to New Zealand, the alliance includes the USA, Great Britain, Australia and Canada.
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Stephen Knox, director of the Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Auckland, said that a few years ago he would not have expected such a choice of words from New Zealand. New Zealand may want to let the Five Eyes partners know that although it is economically dependent on China, it is not giving up. However, these statements are not expected to have a negative impact on trade relations between the two countries.