China rejects human rights plea during ‘intense’ EU trade talks
“Europe needs to be a player, not a playing field,” he said.Xi rejected criticism by Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel of his country’s human rights record, arguing there was no universal path to human rights, while accusing the EU of having its own issues to deal with.

“China does not accept human rights proselytisers and opposes double standards,” he said according to Chinese state media service Xinhua.

Von der Leyen said the talks, originally marked as a key event on the road to a bilateral free trade treaty between the block and the Asian giant, were “frank and open, constructive and intense”.

Germany has long maintained a policy of quiet diplomacy with China but has become more assertive in 2020, releasing its first Indo-Pacific strategy last week and laying out its principles for increasing European action in the region to guard against “significant shifts in the balance of power”.

China banned German pork imports on Saturday. The Chinese customs office said the decision was based on cases of African swine fever. The Chinese government has this year issued trade infringements on Australian wine, barley, wheat and beef after disputes over the coronavirus, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and Xinjiang.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne used a virtual speech to the United Nations on Tuesday to say human rights must be central to debates and decision making as the world grapples with the coronavirus.

“Australia firmly believes that nations that uphold principles domestically are more likely to cooperate in ways the promote the common good, respecting fundamental human rights and freedoms,” she said.

State media service Xinhua reported Xi firmly opposed any country’s interference in China’s internal affairs.

“The essence of Hong Kong-related and Xinjiang-related issues is to safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and unity, and to protect the rights of people of all ethnic groups to live and work in peace,” he said.

Hours after the meeting, US Assistant Secretary of State David Stillwell pushed for greater cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

“We are joining a chorus led by Australia for a while now,” he said.

The US announced new trade measures on China on Tuesday, blocking products that it claims are made by forced labour in Xinjiang where the Uighur Muslim minority has been sent to “re-education camps”.

The move will ban cotton, electronics and hair products from specific manufacturers in Xinjiang. China is the world’s largest cotton producer and more than 80 per cent of it comes from the semi-autonomous region.

“This is not a vocational centre, it is a concentration camp, a place where religious and ethnic minorities are subject to abuse and forced to work in heinous conditions with no recourse and no freedom,” US Homeland Security acting deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli said.