Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says that activities by the government organs of the People's Republic of China are an increasing challenge for Estonia, other small countries, and democracies as a whole. She has also welcomed an open letter published Wednesday, which expressed concerns and issued a call to action on the issue.
Kallas told ERR's online news in Estonian Thursday afternoon that she was: "Pleased with the public appeal on China's influence, signed by close to 70 scientists, cultural figures, journalists and MPs. It is important to think about, as well as be ready to stand up for, our values."
The appeal, whose signatories span the political spectrum, hit out at surveillance, intimidation of journalists, researchers and others, misinformation, sanctions and other actions, which it says China has been involved in with increasing frequency.
The appeal cited recent sanctions against MEPs and other European politicians, and the plight of students from Hong Kong and Macau, both at Oxford University and other higher education institutions, who had spoken out against political and other repressions in their home lands, and called for increased vigilance and other means of mitigating these developments.
Kaja Kallas acknowledged that Estonia had not been left out of the picture in the intensification of activities emanating from Beijing.
"It is true that China's activities in and towards Estonia have grown. Combating influence and misinformation are issues that we are constantly working with in Estonia, together with other EU and NATO countries. Attempts to gain influence must be resolved resolutely," she said.
Kallas was speaking the same day China's Estonian embassy had taken out a full-page advertisement in newspaper Õhtuleht, which said reports of human rights abuses of the country's Muslim Uighur minority in Xinjiang were falsehoods
Kallas also said that while cooperation with China was not to be ruled out, this would preferably done bilaterally or as part of the EU27, rather than the recently criticized 17 +1 format, which sees over a dozen, predominantly Central and Eastern European nations, many of them, like Estonia, EU member states, hived off from the rest of the union in wide ranging talks with Beijing.
Regarding the human rights situation in China as a whole and with the Uighur in particular, Kallas said that: "Estonia has raised human rights violations both internationally, at the UN Human Rights Council, in joint letters with like-minded countries, at the level of the EU as well as in bilateral relations with China, and we will continue to do so."
"Eventually, our relationship will come down to finding a balance between challenges and opportunities," Kallas added.
Wednesday's public address had also mentioned Tibet and inner Mongolia in its human rights concerns.
Ambassador to Estonia Li Chao said in the Õhtuleht one-pager that the Uighur claims were: "The most ridiculous lies and rumors of the century", and the result of malicious political manipulations, while those states which had backed China on the issue, such as Pakistan, Nepal, Armenia and Tajikistan, were to be commended for so doing.
Editor: Andrew Whyte