China – where press freedom does not exist, where political opposition is effectively banned and where human rights defenders are thrown into prison – is about to buy into the Arctic. What responsibilities does the media have as China enters the Arctic region?
Barents Press Norway invites debate about the role of the press covering Chinese investments in the Arctic, and how Western governments juggle their relationship with human rights and economic interests.
While the Norwegian authorities have kept Russia in the political freezer since 2014 after the illegal annexation of Crimea, Norway itself is only just emerging after almost eight years in the Chinese political freezer. When Chinese human rights activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, violent reactions came from Beijing. All political contact was stopped, and the Norwegian business sector met closed doors. Only after Norway promised to steer clear of “China’s internal affairs” and vowed to stop whining about human rights, we were allowed to visit again.
And what a visit! In the autumn of 2018, the royal family went on a state visit with 300 business leaders and two ministers in tow. Now the world’s second largest economy, China is ready to invest in the Arctic. In our neighbourhood, they plan to build a railway connecting Kirkenes and Rovaniemi.
But what is the difference between a Russian violation of international law and China’s increasingly authoritarian governance, where journalists, opposition politicians and democratisers are thrown into prison and subjected to show trials? Is it so simple that Norway’s relationship with human rights also is about politics and economics? What dilemma do Western democracies face when one of the world’s worst countries concerning fundamental human rights comes to “us” to invest?
And what is the role of the independent media in dealing with human rights violations? Barents Press Norway invites you to a debate where we look more closely at the condition of the ‘free word’ in our two important arctic nations China and Russia.
In the panel:
Gerald Folkvord, Political Adviser at Amnesty International’s office in Oslo
Ane Tusvik Bonde, senior advisor at Human Rights House Foundation
Jørgen Lohne, former China correspondent for the Norwegian daily Aftenposten
Hans Jørgen Gåsemyr, senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)
Moderator: Amund Trellevik, chairman Barents Press Norway and reporter at NRK Finnmark
The doors opens at 15:30 – our own DJ Ungevraal will play a selection of finest and honest Chinese and Russian pop music for the audience.
Foto: Heiko Junge