China tells Japan to stay out of Hong Kong, Xinjiang issues

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China urged Japan to steer clear of “internal issues” including Hong Kong and Xinjiang as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga prepares to meet US President Joe Biden later this month.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his counterpart Toshimitsu Motegi that he hoped Japan could treat China’s development from an “objective and rational” perspective, according to a statement on Tuesday (April 6) from the government in Beijing.

Motegi reiterated Japan’s serious concern over a range of issues, including the situation in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, as well as China’s passage of a law allowing its Coast Guard to fire on foreign ships, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a separate statement.

Suga will become the first foreign leader to meet Biden in person, underscoring the US’s focus on shoring up ties with allies in the region as it tries to pressure China over everything from human rights to trade to a probe into the origins of the coronavirus.

Suga has come under pressure from some in his own ruling party who want Japan to follow other major democracies in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials over allegations of forced labour in Xinjiang, particularly ahead of the White House summit on April 16 and the Group of Seven summit in the UK in June.

Japan has found it increasingly awkward to balance its relations with the US, its only military ally, and China, its biggest trading partner. Japan has stepped up its rhetoric as the Biden administration signals a renewed focus on human rights in foreign policy, but it lacks a legal framework to impose sanctions.

The US, Canada, the EU and the UK have all imposed penalties on China over human rights abuses against the Uighur ethnic group in the far west region of Xinjiang, spurring groups of lawmakers to call for Japan to follow suit.

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