Municipality in eastern Netherlands severed ties with Chinese city of Wuhan following government mistreatment of Uyghur minority in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in unusual move by city foreigner to break a twinning agreement with a Chinese sister city.
A majority of Arnhem City Council members on Wednesday approved a proposal to end the partnership in place since 1999, citing human rights violations committed by China targeting the predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang, the channel reported. Dutch television NOS.
Twinning, or twinning, agreements bring together towns or cities from different countries to encourage people-to-people contact and cultural ties as well as economic benefits. Chinese cities have more than 1,400 sister cities around the world to increase China’s soft power and global influence.
Agreements boost cooperation and trade between Chinese and foreign cities under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s massive loan, infrastructure and trade program that expands from the East to Europe and other continents. The Netherlands has not officially joined the BIS.
The move comes as many Western democracies are punishing China for its crackdown on Uyghurs through laws, calls to boycott the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, and sanctions against officials and entities found responsible for it. violations of the rights of Turkish minorities in the XUAR, or who use the Uyghur forced labor.
The city council’s decision to end the twinning came after a call from Ahmedjan Kasima, a Uyghur refugee living in the Netherlands who, along with other Uyghurs, spoke to some of the city councilors at a protest before the board meeting.
The mayor of Arnhem and some of the councilors who favored maintaining relations with Wuhan and maintaining dialogue with China on human rights, wanted to speak to their counterparts in Wuhan before proceeding to the vote, but the council disagreed, NOS said.
A majority of advisers from the pro-immigrant party DENK, the Green Party GroenLinks, the Social Liberal Democrats 66, the Socialist Party, the Christian Union, the Nationalist Party for Freedom and the Party for the Animals, a party of animal rights, voted for immediate separation of links, according to a report on the NL # Times website.
“We believe that human rights violations are taking place on a large scale in China and that the situation of Uyghurs and other minorities in China is deteriorating day by day and that under these circumstances it is immoral to maintain links between cities. and China, ”the political parties said. said during the discussion, NL # Times reported.
Tülay Gemici, adviser to GroenLinks, one of the parties that voted to cancel the twinning, told Omroep Gelderland, a regional public broadcaster in the Dutch province of Gelderland, that the protest “played a role” in the party vote.
“When I see such a group of people, and a man tells me that he has not seen 19 of his relatives in four years because they are missing, it adds to the overall picture and strengthens the feeling that you should not [involve] Arnhem, ”the broadcast organization said, citing its statement.
An assessment commissioned by the municipality estimated that the economic impact of severing ties with Wuhan would amount to several million euros and dozens of jobs for businesses in the region, although the twinning agreement did not generate any investment from China, Dutch media reported.
After the vote, Ahmedjan Kasima told NOS that he did not expect the city council to vote to end the partnership. He had called for the dissolution of the twinning agreement a few weeks ago, but at that point it looked like a majority of members would vote in favor of keeping it, according to the report.
“A political strategy”
China has used the sister city agreement since it opened in 1978 as a political strategy to “infiltrate” the western world, said Asiya Uyghur, a Netherlands-based Uyghur scholar and observer.
“If the severing of twinning ties with Chinese cities turns into a domino effect in Western society, it could seriously damage China’s strategic plan to dominate the world,” she said.
“From this perspective, the severing of Arnhem of the Netherlands ties with Wuhan on the Uyghur issue has deep significance and it is a major setback for China,” she said.
Arnhem, capital of the province of Gelderland, has around 159,300 inhabitants. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province (central China) with a population of around 11 million, is where the contagious COVID-19 virus was first detected in December 2019. Wuhan has twinning agreements with 13 other countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
The Dutch parliament declared in February that the systematic persecution and mass detention of Uyghurs amounted to genocide.
The British parliament and other democratic legislatures in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Canada and Lithuania have also determined that China’s policies in the XUAR constitute genocide, citing internment camps that have detained some 1.8 million people, some of whom have been tortured or subjected to other abuse.
In January, the US government determined that serious violations of Uyghur rights in the region were part of a campaign of genocide, and in June, a German parliamentary commission declared the violations to be crimes against humanity.
China has angrily rejected international scrutiny and criticism of Xinjiang, arguing that its policies are aimed at combating extremism and maintaining stability in the region.
Reported by Uyghuray for RFA Uyghur Service. Translated by Mamatjan Juma. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
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