Macron’s call with Xi Jinping without mentioning Uighur issue sparks criticism

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Chinese Communist Party President Xi Jinping on the evening of the 25th. From the communist official news agency Xinhua’s press release and the French presidential communiqué, the two sides exchanged views on bilateral relations and international topics of common concern, but neither mentioned the Uighur issue, which is of wide concern to international public opinion. French scholars criticized Macron for neither mentioning the Uighur issue nor touching on the Hong Kong issue in this call. However, the presidential administration subsequently clarified this.

Indeed, after French Foreign Minister Jean-Claude Le Drian’s speech at the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday, in which he condemned the “institutionalized repression” of the Chinese Communist Party in Xinjiang, it was somewhat surprising that President Macron made no mention of it in his call with the Chinese Communist Party president. What’s more, after Le Dérien’s statement, the Chinese Embassy in France issued a statement condemning any alleged interference in the internal affairs of others in the name of human rights.

Antoine Bondaz, a China expert at the French Foundation for Strategic Studies, commented on the Twitter platform that Macron’s failure to mention human rights issues, especially in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, in this call was incomprehensible. He considers this a serious political mistake. He again criticized the lack of consistency in French foreign policy.

But the French presidency clarified this at noon on the 26th, saying that Macron talked about this sensitive subject in the call. AFP quoted presidential sources as pointing out that Macron’s position on the Xinjiang issue is very clear and will be re-mentioned in every conversation.

In addition, according to the French presidential communiqué on the call, the two sides had talked about climate issues. Macron affirmed China’s commitment to achieve carbon neutrality and hoped that at the next summit between Britain and France, co-chaired by the United Nations, the parties would come up with concrete proposals. Macron also hoped to promote bilateral cooperation between France and China in various fields such as civil nuclear energy, aviation manufacturing, space technology innovation and Food processing.

Macron reaffirmed the investment agreement reached between China and Europe at the end of last year and called on the Beijing authorities to ratify as soon as possible the International Labor Organization conventions on the prohibition of forced labor.

One of the reasons for the surprise China-EU investment agreement, reached in the last days of 2020, has been the recent revelations of alleged forced labor in detention camps in Xinjiang where Uighurs are arbitrarily held. At one point, France made the investment agreement conditional on the Chinese Communist Party’s commitment to end forced labor. The Chinese government has since pledged in the China-EU investment agreement only to work toward ratification of International Labor Organization conventions.

A report by Xinhua, the official Communist Party news agency, on the call between the Chinese and French leaders focused on Sino-French and Sino-European cooperation. Xi praised Macron’s assertion of the EU’s strategic autonomy and hoped for the early entry into force of the China-EU investment agreement, but made no mention at all of the International Labor Organization convention on the prohibition of forced labor.

The Xinhua news release also made no mention of Myanmar. Instead, according to the French presidential communiqué, Macron expressed deep concern to Xi Jinping about the situation in Myanmar.

The Chinese Communist Party is a major supporter of Burma. Since the February 1 military coup in Burma, the CCP has consistently refused to call the overthrow of the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi a military coup. In contrast, Burma’s civil disobedience movement against the military regime has continued to expand and the military crackdown has intensified.