Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre made a whirlwind day trip to Beijing on Monday and diplomatically claimed he had constructive talks with top leaders. He turned down, however, China’s request to extradite terror suspect Mikael Davud, now being held in an Oslo prison.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Chinese officials asked Støre (PicApp photo at right) to return Davud, who came to Norway as a Uyghur refugee from northwestern China. The Uyghur people in the uneasy Xinjang Province have long been viewed as a security problem by the Chinese authorities, who in turn have been accused of violating the Uyghurs’ human rights.
Davud, who became a Norwegian citizen in 2007, was among three men arrested in early July on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Norway. The British newspaper Daily Telegraph has also recently linked Davud to a network believed to have been involved in the London bombings in 2005, and suggested he led a terror cell from Oslo.
Støre told newspaper Dagbladet that the Chinese media have followed the terror case closely, while Chinese authorities have contested Davud’s Norwegian citizenship. They want him extradited on the grounds he remains a Chinese citizen.
Støre disagrees. “The man is a Norwegian citizen and Norwegian courts will decide his guilt,” Støre said. Davud’s defense lawyer agrees, telling Dagbladet that “China has its own agenda when it comes to the Uyghurs. They have an extremely brutal behaviour towards the Uyghurs.”
Støre, meanwhile, told reporters that he otherwise had productive talks with his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, and Vice President Xi Jinping, among others.
Støre defied jet lag and any after-effects of his 50th birthday party over the weekend to hold a speech on the northern areas (external link) in addition to his talks. He was especially pleased to meet Xi, who some believe may succeed Hu Jintao as president and party leader in China.
“He made a solid impression, had made himself familiar with Norwegian-Chinese relations and could talk about them almost without notes,” Støre told newspaepr Aftenposten. He said Xi was interested in how Norway’s social welfare state functions and how it was preparing to handle pension demands from an growing elder population.
China is also interested in Arctic issues and has recently set up a research station on Svalbard. Støre said he also brought up human rights issues during his brief visit, but few details were released.