China was a major topic of discussion Monday between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, as the two top diplomats pledged unity between the two nations based on the “convergence” of interests and shared values, including holding human-rights abusers to account.
“I think it’s fair to say we see eye to eye on the need to stand up for our values, holding Beijing to the commitments that they’ve made, whether it’s in relation to Hong Kong under the Joint Declaration or wider commitments, whilst also at the same time finding constructive ways to work with China in a sensible and positive manner where that’s possible,” Raab said in remarks to the press a day ahead of the Group of Seven foreign ministers’ summit in London, the first face-to-face meeting in two years.
Raab pointed out that the United States and the United Kingdom recently imposed sanctions to prevent British and American businesses from “inadvertently supporting” the forced labor of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and other Turkic Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and elsewhere in China.
While China has repeatedly rejected accusations of torture, forced sterilizations and other abuse, insisting that its “re-education” camps provide vocational training that helps alleviate poverty and fight extremism, both the Trump and Biden administrations, along with the British parliament, have declared Beijing’s targeted campaign against the Uyghur people as genocide.
“We’ll continue our robust cooperation to address the atrocities in Xinjiang, a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and politicians in Hong Kong–which breaches China’s international commitments–and the repression of media freedom across China and in other parts of the world,” Blinken said.
Blinken and Raab also expressed agreement on Myanmar, now in its fourth month of a coup that has killed hundreds of pro-democracy protestors and detained thousands more since the military seized power from the country’s quasi-democratic leadership and initiated its brutal crackdowns.
“We want to see an end to the violence,” Raab said. “We want to see the military regime return to democracy and the electoral mandate that the government should have representing the people of Myanmar. We’ve been clear not just in our targeted sanctions, our Magnitsky sanctions, but also wider measures we’re taking to stop U.K. businesses doing business with conglomerates or businesses controlled by the Tatmadaw, that we’re going to apply pressure that way.”
He added that the G7 will provide an opportunity to speak to representatives from Korea, India and Australia, as well as current Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chair Brunei, to “discuss how we shift the dial and get a change for the better in Myanmar” on the diplomacy front and on the side of sanctions. Both Britain and the United States have frozen out the Myanmar Economic Corporation and others for making funds available to senior military leaders.
ASEAN’s recently established five-point consensus on how to approach Myanmar’s political crisis, including appointing an envoy to engage with all parties and seek a peaceful end to the violence, “is important,” Blinken said.
“But it is vital, regardless of anything else, that the violence cease, that prisoners be released and that Myanmar return to the path of democracy,” he added. “And I subscribe to everything that [Raab] said about some of the things that we’re doing or looking at to encourage that.”