Bratislava, Slovakia – Zuzana Caputova, who was sworn in as Slovakia’s new president less than a month ago, took aim at Beijing’s human rights record following a meeting with a top official from China.
During a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi, Zuzana Caputova criticized Beijing for its violations of human rights.
“In line with the EU’s join policy, I expressed concern and worries about the deteriorating situation in terms of human rights protection in China, about the detainment of lawyers and human rights activists, and about the position of ethnic and religious minorities”, she said in a statement released following the meeting with Beijing’s top diplomat.
Her statement was welcomed by human rights activists and civil society, as politicians from Slovakia and other Central European countries – who are eyeing Chinese investments and business opportunities of tightening ties with the world’s second-largest economy – have in recent years rarely engaged in openly criticizing China over its human rights record.
According to the presidential office, Zuzana Caputova also told Wang Yi that the defense of human rights became the foundation of a free Slovakia after the fall of communism three decades ago.
“A rare departure for an east European politician in a region hungry for Chinese investment”, writes Reuters. “Very proud of Zuzana Caputova standing up for human rights”, Progressive Slovakia MP Martin Poliačik commented on Twitter.
A former anti-corruption lawyer and activist, Zuzana Caputova has previously emphasized her wish to carry on the pro-democracy diplomacy and human rights legacy of former dissident and Czechoslovakia’s last president Vaclav Havel.
Her position is in clear contrast with the stance of her Czech counterpart Milos Zeman, one of the region’s most vocal pro-China advocates.
Wang Yi, one of China’s highest-ranking officials, was in Bratislava as part of a week-long Central European tour that brought him, before Slovakia, to Hungary and Poland.