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Friday, March 31, 2023

Raise two sensitive issues with Xi, PM told


Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim must ask Chinese president Xi Jinping about the alleged poor treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority group, says analyst.

PETALING JAYA: Two foreign policy experts have urged Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim to raise two key issues when he meets Chinese President Xi Jinping during his maiden trip to Beijing, saying this will prove he is consistent in his principles.

These issues are expected to be discussed discreetly in the interest of preserving ties with the superpower.

Collins Chong, a foreign affairs and strategy analyst at University Malaya (UM), said Anwar should bring up matters regarding the South China Sea territorial dispute and China’s alleged poor treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

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Angeline Tan, a foreign policy researcher specialising on China at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), agreed.

Speaking to FMT, Chong said Anwar must raise the two issues regardless of their sensitivity and of the potential repercussions from Beijing.

“Anwar will have to stand up to his credentials and unyielding stance of upholding human rights, freedom and democracy,” he said. “He has built his track record on such values and principles.”

Chong acknowledged that Anwar would be aware of the implications of raising these issues at length publicly or during a press conference. “But if he refrains from addressing these issues and reaffirming the concerns of Malaysians, he will undoubtedly receive flak from the public and global community.”

Tan said it was important for Anwar to highlight the South China Sea since it concerned Malaysia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

China has maintained claims to sovereignty over the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.

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Chong said the opposition would be looking closely to see if Anwar would raise these issues with Xi and would use his failure to do so as political ammunition against him.

Tan noted that Anwar had previously highlighted China’s treatment of the Uyghurs and had asked Beijing to recognise their right to freedom of religion.

Human rights groups have accused China of committing atrocities against the Uyghurs, including compulsory sterilisation of women, forced labour, and sexual violence. China has denied the claims.

“There is an expectation for Anwar to raise the Uyghur issue,” Tan told FMT. “Not doing so would present an inconsistency in his principles.”

Meanwhile, Noor Farida Mohd Arrifin, a member of the G25 group of former civil servants, said Anwar should raise the issue of overlapping claims in the South China Sea but must steer clear of the Uyghur issue due to conflicting reports on their mistreatment by the Chinese government.

“He could raise it privately,” she said. “I don’t think it should be mentioned in the joint communiqué that the two leaders will issue.

“I don’t think he will receive flak from the public if he doesn’t bring these issues up as there is general unawareness about them.” - FMT

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