The country holds human rights in high regard; in fact, according to its Federal Constitution, human rights are an integral part of the nation’s value system. Then, one wonders, why are Swiss officials so cozy with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a known violator of human rights?
In October, at a United Nations gathering, France delivered a statement on behalf of 43 members. The statement condemned the Chinese regime’s treatment of the Uyghur minority in China’s Xinjiang region. However, Switzerland, a supposed champion of human rights, refused to join in the statement. When asked why, Switzerland’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Pierre-Alain Eltschinger, told VOA “that his country decided not to join in the latest statement because of various factors,” including a fast-approaching “strategic dialogue” with Beijing.
He then followed up the statement with a wholly contradictory one: “Switzerland’s substantive position on China and human rights remains unchanged. … Switzerland continues to be concerned about the human rights situation in Xinjiang and other parts of China.”
If the Swiss government is concerned, then why is it refusing to officially acknowledge China’s genocidal campaign?
Well, it’s rather simple: Money.
Switzerland and China have a strong bond, and this bond is only growing stronger. According to Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, both countries have maintained bilateral relations since the 1950s, conducting dialogues on a whole host of issues, “including the environment, development cooperation, human rights, migration, education, science and finance.”
If Switzerland’s recent refusal to condemn the atrocities in Xinjiang is anything to go by, then any dialogue regarding human rights is, I imagine, rather brief in nature. As the German newspaper DW previously reported, for Swiss officials, nothing, not even genocide, will stop Bern, the country’s capital, from expanding its economic relations with Beijing.
In 2019, Switzerland exported 13.4 billion Swiss francs (about $14.7 billion) worth of goods to China, while imported 14.9 billion Swiss francs (about $16.1 billion) worth of goods. Since the turn of the 21st century, according to the DW report, Swiss investments in China have risen exponentially. Interestingly, some of Switzerland’s biggest banks now own majority stakes in a number of Chinese subsidiaries. China, not surprisingly, has also made considerable investments in Swiss companies.
Take Syngenta, for example. The world’s largest producer of agricultural chemicals is now owned by ChemChina, a CCP-backed enterprise.
Neutral on Everything But China
There was a time, not that long ago, when the Swiss government stood for something of substance, when it put the rights of people before hefty profits. In 2019, Swiss officials actually called on the CCP to close the concentration camps in Xinjiang. The calls came just days after leaked documents revealed the full extent of the abuses that were occurring. However, times have changed, and the Swiss government appears to have had a reverse road to Damascus moment.
Although Swiss campaigners have urged those in Bern to renegotiate a six-year-old free trade agreement with Beijing, their demands have fallen on deaf ears. Last year, reports of a clandestine deal between Switzerland and China were leaked. Rather incredibly, the Swiss government (remember, a supposed champion of human rights) gave Chinese security officials permission to enter the country “for a period of two weeks—without official status—in order to investigate Chinese citizens” who had fled to the European Union nation. Once identified, citizens were deported with immediate effect. Many of those affected by the inhumane deal were people fleeing a tyrannical regime, desperate to forge out new lives in a country lauded for its safety.
As The Guardian reported in December, unlike dozens of other deals Switzerland has signed with other countries, the deal with the CCP “was never published by the government and was not even publicly acknowledged until August,” when the official English translation of the agreement was obtained by Safeguard Defenders, a group of brave individuals dedicated to the preservation of human rights.
Switzerland’s capitulation to China is as shocking as it is dumbfounding. In early November, the country’s foreign minister played down the country’s unwillingness to support Western sanctions against the CCP. Bern is busy pursuing a “special path” with Beijing, said Ignazio Cassis. The foreign minister called the current situation “a balancing act,” with “difficult discussions” about human rights on one hand, and economic necessities on the other. On this “special path,” however, there is no place for important discussions about sensitive topics, including the murder of innocent people in Xinjiang.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.