The latest round of the human rights dialogue between Switzerland and China took place in Bern. It provided an opportunity for in-depth discussions on the human rights situation in both countries and on the international stage between delegations comprising representatives from various Chinese ministries, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), the Federal Department of Home Affairs, the Federal Office of Justice and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).
A number of priorities were addressed during the dialogue, including civil and political rights such as the right to life, freedom of expression and the rule of law. Economic, social and cultural rights, the rights of national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, and women's and LGBTI rights were also among the topics raised. The talks also broached emerging challenges in the fields of business and human rights, digitalisation and cooperation in multilateral forums. Specific human rights violations, such as those suffered by Tibetans and Uighurs, and human rights violations in Hong Kong as well as several individual cases were also explored during the discussions.
Switzerland seeks to ensure that the fundamental rights of individuals, in particular of ethnic and religious minorities, and freedom of expression are respected. A possible way to do this is through a bilateral human rights dialogue. Switzerland's China Strategy, which it published in 2021, sets out thematic priorities for relations between Switzerland and China, including peace, security and human rights. "Despite our differences, the human rights dialogue remains an important bilateral instrument. During this 17th meeting, the two delegations restated the importance of continuing these regular dialogues and of stepping up exchanges in between the formal meetings", said Ambassador Christine Löw, deputy head of the FDFA's Peace and Human Rights Division, who led the Swiss delegation. The Chinese delegation was led by Yang Xiaokun, Special Representative for Human Rights of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Exchange of experts and on-site visit to the Jura
The discussions that have taken place as part of this dialogue since 2003 have led to regular exchanges between prison management experts. After no activities took place in the last four years,, it is encouraging to see China's renewed commitment to prioritising these exchanges in the wake of the 17th round of dialogue.
The members of the two delegations also travelled to Delémont, where they met the official mediator for the Jura question, Jean-Christophe Geiser of the Federal Office of Justice. Presentations and discussions in the presence of the Jura government explained how Switzerland managed the internal political conflict surrounding the creation of the Canton of Jura and Moutier joining the Canton.
Human Rights Diplomacy Section
Switzerland and China have held a dialogue on human rights since 1991. It is one of a diverse range of instruments used by Switzerland to pursue its human rights diplomacy policy. Since the last dialogue in Beijing in 2018, bilateral initiatives that address individual cases and high-level talks have taken place. They are complemented by multilateral activities within the Human Rights Council and at the UN General Assembly, where Switzerland voices its stance on the human rights situation in China, both independently and in collaboration with like-minded partner states.
Switzerland conducts structured exchanges on human rights through specific dialogues and consultations with a number of other states as well as China, currently Brazil, Iran, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa.