The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern has taken a tougher stance on China’s human rights record by disclosing it was becoming harder to settle differences as the role of China in the world grows.
Though Ardern’s language was moderate when compared with that of other leaders, it still depicted a significant shift for a country that counts on China as its biggest trading partner.
In past speeches, the Prime Minister had often avoided criticising China directly. However, New Zealand has been attempting to slam China recently after discovering that it was on the defensive with its Five Eyes security allies by refusing to speak out in unison with them against China on specific human rights issues.
The Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Nanaia Mahuta triggered a diplomatic stir recently when she discussed her unwillingness to expand the role of the Five Eyes to include joint positions on human rights. The cooperation among New Zealand, the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada has its origins in World War II alliance.
In her recent speech to the China Business Summit in Auckland, Ardern said New Zealand has raised “grave” concerns with China on issues relating to human rights, including the situation of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region and people who are living in Hong Kong.
She added: “And it will not have escaped the attention of anyone here that as China’s role in the world grows and changes, the differences between our systems – and the interests and values that shape those systems – are becoming harder to reconcile.”