Jacinda Ardern keeps quiet on comments to Chinese Government about human rights abuses

The Prime Minister is refusing to say how strongly she condemned abuses of Uighur Muslim people while meeting with China's top leaders.

Jacinda Ardern spent 12 hours in Beijing for high level talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

She told media she raised the issue of human rights with Li and Xi.

"I raised the issue directly with the Premier and with the President. You can't do much more than that.

"At the same time, simply I'm referring back to the United Nations response because it is a comprehensive one, it discusses a range of responses and expectations."

Approximately one million Uighurs and other Turkic minority groups have been put in detention camps without charge in the Xinjiang Province in western China. Something as simple as taking a call from overseas or going to a mosque is enough to be detained, according to family members of those detained.

The camps, reports say, were established with the aim of carrying out "anti-extremist ideological education", and satellite imagery has shown rapid growth in 28 camps across the region - over two million new square metres added since early 2017.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said in August 2018 it was alarmed by reports of the detention of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.

Ms Ardern wouldn't say much about how she raised the issue with Xi and Li, but said New Zealand's record on human rights was clear.

"The issue of human rights generally has been something that New Zealand has been very consistent on, that's one of the strengths of our relationship.

"Something that has enabled us to build trust is that we do consistently raise issues in a way that has a level of predictability.

"So no, absolutely no issue there, New Zealand's simply maintaining in practice what it's continued to do in different areas over time."

Human Rights Watch (HRW) picked up on Ardern's popularity among the Muslim community after the Christchurch attacks, and on Friday urged her to "publicly express concern about mass abuses of Turkic Muslims in meetings with Chinese leaders".

"Ardern should show the same global leadership [as she did after Christchurch] by publicly calling on China to respect the human rights of Muslims there," Sophie Richardson, HRW China director, said.

An article published on Sunday in the Global Times, considered a mouthpiece for the Chinese Government, said New Zealand stands out from other Western countries for not launching "groundless accusations" over China's Xinjiang policies.

Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations in Beijing, told the Global Times: "New Zealand's approach in dealing with China is wiser and more pragmatic than other Western countries."