The leaders of Group of Seven richest democracies demanded a second transparent science-based study into the origins of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) and called on China to respect human rights in the Xinjiang region, according to a draft communique. The G7 leaders, in an almost finalised version of the communique, reiterated their demand to restore the higher degree of autonomy in Hong Kong, a former British colony, which has been undermined by China’s draconian national security law.

“We will promote our values, including by calling on China to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, especially in relation to Xinjiang and those rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy for Hong Kong enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” the G7 said.

In recent times, Beijing has drawn the ire of the West over its alleged human right violations and forced labour practices in the Xinjiang region, largely inhabited by Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority group in China. Several reports have claimed Uyghur Muslims have been facing persecution at the hands of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the name of “re-education camps”.

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G7 countries repeated the demand earlier made by the United States for the second phase of the investigation into Covid-19 origins and the route of introduction to the human population, to be convened by the World Health Organization (WHO). A report by an international team of experts after the first phase of investigation had deemed the theory of laboratory incident “extremely unlikely.”

However, the hypothesis gained a lot of traction after top infectious disease Dr Anthony Fauci said he was convinced with the theory that the virus “developed naturally.” US President Joe Biden recently ordered intelligence officials to “redouble” efforts to probe the origins of the pandemic, including the possibility of a Chinese laboratory link.

“We also call for a timely, transparent, expert-led, and science-based WHO-convened Phase 2 Covid-19 Origins study including, as recommended by the experts’ report, in China,” the draft G7 communique said.

The G7 leaders also underscored “the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and encourage the peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.” “We remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas and strongly oppose any unilateral attempts to change the status quo and increase tensions,” they added.

(With Reuters inputs)

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