The Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of the Italian Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, passed a motion on May 26 expressing its strongest condemnation of “the various human rights violations that China has committed against its ethnic minorities and religious groups.” It called on China to grant the UN High Commissioner access to “re-education camps” in Xinjiang. The resolution from the parliament of the first European country who joined China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” certainly dealt a blow to China.
The motion shows that the pro-China trade and economic policy of the former Italian government has begun to falter. In particular, since he became prime minister in February this year, Mario Draghi, the former president of the European Central Bank, has come to the forefront of the European Union’s efforts to strengthen its tough stance on China. Draghi had recently invoked its so-called Golden Power to block China’s takeover of a semiconductor firm in Italy.
The Chamber of Deputies did not adopt the use of the term “genocide”, which has been used by the Canadian and U.S. governments. In Europe, the British Parliament first proposed to adopt the finding that the Chinese government’s serious and systematic violations against the Uighurs in Xinjiang were genocide. Because the discussion of “genocide” caused a serious political division, the motion ultimately chose to avoid the word.
The motion calls on the Draghi government and EU partner countries to take a “firm stand” against China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang, which include illegal birth control, the repression of religious freedom, forced labor in detention camp factories, arbitrary detention and the use of digital technology for surveillance purposes.
Laura Harth, campaign director of Safeguard Defenders, a human rights non-governmental organization, told Radio Free Asia, “The bill was debated in Parliament and the media made a big deal out of it. Before it was very difficult to discuss the Uighur issue in Italy, but the epidemic from China has significantly changed the attitude of the MP’s.”
Italy, single-handedly signing the “Belt and Road Memorandum” with Beijing among EU member states, has been seen as an important bridgehead for China to conquer EU. The Italian public began to see the other side of China upon the outbreak of the epidemic, as well as from receiving the fake news spread by Chinese diplomats on Twitter, claiming that Italians were grateful for Chinese aid and were playing the Chinese national anthem. In March, Deputy Foreign Minister Marina Sereni summoned the Chinese Ambassador to protest against the sanctions that China imposed on several European parliamentarians and to reiterate Italy’s position in defense of human rights and freedoms.
Source: Radio Free Asia, May 31, 2021