It’s not often that the leaders of democracies like Switzerland and Spain gather with the heads of repressive regimes like North Korea and Uzbekistan, but it seems no one wants to miss China’s coming-out party for its “One Belt, One Road” initiative. No fewer than 28 heads of government from Asia, Central Asia, the European Union and Africa will be in Beijing on May 14-15 for the largest One Belt, One Road meeting to date.
China’s One Belt, One Road ambitions are not modest: if it succeeds, 65 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe will be linked by land and by sea for trade and investment.
But many key questions remain unanswered, including what kind of impact the initiative will have on human rights. Leaders attending the summit would do well to remember that international human rights norms apply across the project’s many components and participants.
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Sophie Richardson is the China director and Hugh Williamson is the director of the Europe & Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch.