In November 2021 at the annual meeting of the Europa Forum Lucerne, a coalition of civil society organisations published the ‘Lucerne Manifesto on the People’s Republic of China’, which, summarised in one sentence, says it is time to end business as usual concerning China.

The signatory organisations are: European Federation of Taiwanese Associations, Hongkonger in Deutschland e. V., Society for Threatened Peoples Germany, Society for Threatened Peoples Switzerland, Swiss-Tibetan Friendship Association, Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Tibetan Community in Switzerland & Liechtenstein, Tibetan Women’s Organisation in Switzerland, Tibetan Youth Association in Europe, Uigurischer Verein Schweiz, World Uyghur Congress. You can download it here. I quote the preamble and the part dedicated to the business world:

The appalling level of human rights abuses, the massive repression of all opposition movements, and the increasingly aggressive assertion of political, economic and territorial interests by the Communist Party (CP) and Xi Jinping‘s government of the People‘s Republic of China (PRC) threaten to undermine the international human rights system. Under these circumstances, „business as usual“ is not an option. Political and economic decision-makers must demand universal human rights at all levels and in all matters when dealing with the PRC. Moreover, the international community must send a clear message to Beijing that human rights are non-negotiable.

To business leaders 1 Conduct human rights due diligence in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises when engaging in company shareholding, imports, exports and/or financial services in connection with the PRC. 2 Engage with partner companies to demand respect for human rights. In case of concerns, terminate cooperation if the situation does not improve and a connection with human rights violations cannot be ruled out. 3 Establish and implement a specific code of conduct for the concerning the PRC. 4 Communicate to PRC offices expressing serious concern, requesting information and transparency, and demanding independent access to operations.

Our company works mainly with Taiwanese producers, I would say 70% of the work is with Taiwan. However, we also have two Chinese suppliers, who do more or less 20% (the remaining 10% is with European suppliers). I often have questions about this business partnership we have. Of course we are tiny, we are not a multinational company and our business is a grain of sand in the desert of trade relations with China. But it exists, even if it is a grain. Our two suppliers are in the eastern coastal provinces of Shandong and Zhejiang, they are not huge by Chinese standards but neither are they small companies. Of one I am sure it has relations with CCP because the founder and owner is a member of the CCP (or very to close to the CCP, I didn’t understand). The people I deal with in these two companies are good people, good salespeople and technicians with whom I have a good relationship, but I can’t help thinking about my hypocrisy. In my own small way, I am doing business as usual with China. I am not sourcing from companies that exploit the forced labour of the Uighurs, but I am helping to make the CCP stronger; still as a grain of sand, but still.

For us for example, there would be no point in trying to implement the five points above, our business with China is so small that the easiest thing is to just end it. But we don’t terminate it because there is no real interest in terminating it and replacing the current Chinese suppliers since it is work to change something that functions. During this year I will be working to clarify and develop the path for the strategy for the coming years for our company, that will be one aspect.