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China tells Europe: You know what a genocide looks like

Foreign minister hits back over Beijing’s crackdown against the Uyghur Muslim minority.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who has attacked what he describes as 'so-called evidence' behind EU sanctions over China's treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority [Lintao Zhang/Getty Images]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday launched a blistering attack against European sanctions imposed over Beijing's crackdown on its Muslim minority, telling a German event: "Our European friends know what is genocide."

The United States has already labeled China's treatment of the Uyghur minority as a genocide, and the Dutch and U.K.parliaments have followed suit, arguing that the Chinese government is engaged in activities including forced sterilization and destruction of cultural heritage like mosques.

"We do everything we can to promote democracy and human rights in China," Wang said at a webinar organized by Munich Security Conference, where he criticized the European Union for imposing sanctions and questioned their legality given that they were not rolled out through the United Nations.

"They were based on so-called evidence. EU never communicated with China whether or not those evidence were true," he said, according to the official translation, stressing that Uyghur Muslims in China were not subject to persecution, concentration camps or genocide.

Much of the western attention has focused on forced labor and "re-education" camps in the western region of Xinjiang, but China says such measures are an attempt to control Islamist extremism. Also on Tuesday, a Xinjiang government spokesman said the facilities helped radicalized Muslims "change back from ghosts to human beings."

The European Parliament this month voted to freeze the legislative process for ratifying the EU-China investment agreement, after Beijing's counter-sanctions hit members of the legislature.

"I wish to stress that, with a high level of mutual benefit, the investment agreement is not a one-sided favor," Wang said. "The Xinjiang-related issue bears on China's sovereignty and security."

Despite the confrontational remarks on Xinjiang, Wang presented a picture of cooperation with Europe ranging from trade and investment to climate change.

"China is ready to maintain and expand all-round cooperation with Europe," Wang said, days before U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is to meet her EU counterpart for a joint dialogue on how to confront China.

"We see Europe as a partner, not a rival," he added.

Rebutting EU's labeling of China as a systemic rival, Wang said China's system had worked well and served the citizens' needs. "Just like the food that is different in the Chinese and Western cuisines that use either chopsticks or knife and fork. It's there for its own particular reason," he said.

© Stuart Lau for Politico, 2021

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