While the Czech Republic and Belgium label the horrors of Xinjiang as “genocide,” a strange Italian document vows to go on with the Belt and Road cooperation
by Marco Respinti
On June 10, after the approval by the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security, the Senate of the Czech Republic unanimously (38 votes to 0) passed a resolution calling on the national government to boycott the Winter Olympics to be held in China in 2022. The ground of that resolution is the Chinese regime’s treatment of Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities. “Massive violations of human rights and freedoms, genocide and crimes against humanity, ethnic discrimination, and the suppression of cultural, religious and political identity” are the words used. The Czech senators argued that participating in the Games could be “misused to legitimize further discrimination, violence, and suppression of fundamental rights.”
A joint motion in the External Affairs Commission of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives was passed almost unanimously on June 15. It recognizes China’s crimes against humanity and stigmatizes a “serious risk of genocide” being perpetrated against Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), which its non-Han inhabitants call East Turkestan.
Presently, after similar resolution passed by Canada, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Lithuania, there are six Parliaments in the world that have adopted similar resolution and used the word “genocide,” which is also used in documents by the U.S. Department of State.
On June 14, at the end of the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, gave a potentially explosive announcement. Italy, he said, will carefully re-examine the Memorandum of agreement on the Belt and Road initiative signed in March 2019 by Rome and Beijing. The Italian state TV announced a “farewell to Belt and Road,” and a “change in the foreign policy” of Italy. Of course, what “re-examining” the agreement means is unclear, but some speculated that Italy may become the first country to back off from the Belt and Road initiative.
But all that glitters is not gold. In fact, the online Italian review Formiche.net has acquired a confidential document, now under finalization by the Italian ministry for Foreign Affairs, whose general secretary is Ettore Sequi, a former ambassador to China. A main driving force for the Belt and Road agreement signed in Italy in March 2019 was Luigi Di Maio, at that time Deputy Prime Minister. Di Maio is now the Foreign Minister of Italy, although in a different government supported by a different coalition.
The document is entitled “Three-Year Action Plan for Strengthening Collaboration (2021–2023)” (Piano d’azione triennale per il rafforzamento della collaborazione, 2021-2023). It is centered on the forthcoming meeting between Mr. Draghi and Mr. Li Keqiang, prime minister of the People’s Republic of China, and apparently has been in preparation since months, starting under the previous government that signed the 2019 Memorandum.
Journalist Gabriele Carrer and activist Laura Harth critically review the document in Formiche.net, underlining that its language is the opposite of Mr. Draghi’s. For example: “The two parts are available for promoting the implementation of the Memorandum of agreement on the collaboration within the range of the economic Belt and Road Initiative and the initiative for a Sea Belt and Road Initiative of the 21st century, and for strengthening the link between the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative and the EU Euro Asiatic connection strategy” (“Le parti sono disponibili a promuovere l’attuazione del memorandum d’intesa sulla collaborazione nell’ambito della ‘Via della Seta’ economica e dell’iniziativa per una via della seta marittima del 21° secolo’ e a rafforzare il collegamento dell’iniziativa cinese ‘Belt and Road’ con la strategia di connettività eurasiatica dell’Ue”). An “effective cooperation that may contribute to the development of the relations between China and the European Union” (“una collaborazione fattiva che contribuisca allo sviluppo delle relazioni tra Cina ed Unione Europea”) is also mentioned.
“Cooperation” in the field of intellectual property and anti-counterfeiting are among the Italian commitments toward China (while in fact it should be China that should move against the widespread infringement of Italian trademarks there), but there is no single reference to human rights, which European Union and NATO have declared a main concern in relations with China.
There is also a strange Italian commitment to organize “events promoting the Winter Olympics in Beijing in 2022” (“eventi di promozione delle Olimpiadi Invernali di Pechino 2022”), ignoring the growing international movement to move away the Olympics from China, precisely because of the CCP’s systematic violation of human rights.
Premier Draghi should clarify the Italian government’s stand on China and human rights as soon as possible. No double-standard is acceptable in front of the crimes that Beijing is perpetrating, and now many countries in the world are acknowledging.
Some brave Italian MPs fought hard to indict China for genocide, but they failed. The Italian Parliament passed a resolution condemning the CCP’s crimes against the Uyghurs, mentioning the word “genocide” three times, but stopping short of qualifying what is happening in Xinjiang as such.
Definitely, Italy should clarify its policy on human rights in China. There may still be time to change the text of the “Three-Year Action Plan for Strengthening Collaboration (2021–2023).”