This article was originally published March 23, 2021, by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
The foreign ministers of China and Russia have met in a display of unity and called for a summit of permanent members of the UN Security Council amid Western sanctions against them over human rights violations and repression of political dissent.
Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov rejected Western criticism at a joint news conference in Beijing on March 23, with Lavrov saying that Russia and China view the United States as trying to rely on Cold War-era military political alliances in an attempt to destroy international legal architecture.
In a joint statement, Lavrov and Wang again rejected what they called outside interference in their domestic affairs and claimed that “there is no single standard for the democratic model.”
“It is necessary to respect the legitimate rights of sovereign states to independently determine their own path of development. Interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states under the pretext of ‘promoting democracy’ is unacceptable,” the joint statement said.
Wang sharply criticized coordinated sanctions brought by the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States against Chinese officials over human rights abuses in China’s far western Xinjiang region targeting the mainly Muslim ethnic Uyghur community.
The EU sanctions imposed on China are similar to the Magnitsky Act — the U.S. legislation that authorizes the U.S. government to sanction those it sees as human rights offenders, freeze their assets, and ban them from entering the United States.
The two foreign ministers also called in their statement for a summit of permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Wang and Lavrov first met on March 22 in the southern Chinese city of Nanning, where they accused Washington of interference in other countries’ affairs and urged it to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement, which former President Donald Trump left in 2018.
Russia and China, which are signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, both maintain close relations with Tehran.
“Countries should stand together to oppose all forms of unilateral sanctions,” Wang said. “These measures will not be embraced by the international community.”
Wang’s comments came as Beijing, in a tit-for-tat move, announced its own sanctions on 10 EU individuals and four entities that it accused of seriously harming China’s sovereignty and interests over Xinjiang.
Wang and Lavrov’s statement, which insisted on “the inviolability of the system of international relations” and respect for international law, came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the European Union of “confrontational policies” in a phone call with European Council President Charles Michel.
The phone call came the same day the EU imposed sanctions on two Chechen officials over rights abuses in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya.
Michel again called on Putin to release opposition politician Aleksei Navalny and “proceed with a transparent investigation into the assassination attempt” on the jailed Kremlin critic, who was poisoned in August 2020 and was thrown in jail upon his return to Russia following life-saving medical treatment in Germany.
Russian authorities have refused to launch an investigation into Navalny’s poisoning in Siberia.
Earlier this month, the United States and the European Union imposed coordinated sanctions against seven senior Russian officials over Navalny’s poisoning and imprisonment.
Relations between Washington and Moscow took a further hit on March 18 after Putin shot back at U.S. President Joe Biden’s description of him as a killer during a television interview.
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