Mainland China tried Thursday to defuse a dispute with Holland over the banned Falun Gong meditation group that prompted the Dutch foreign minister to cancel a visit to Beijing.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said Beijing understood Foreign Minister Jozias van Aartsen’s cancellation. Zhu said the Netherlands had blamed “time problems.”
Van Aartsen is welcome to visit at another time, Zhu said, adding he didn’t believe ties would suffer as a result of the cancellation.
Holland scrapped van Aartsen’s visit after mainland representatives in Hong Kong accused the Dutch human rights ambassador, Renee Jones-Bos, of interfering in mainland China’s affairs by scheduling a meeting with a representative of Falun Gong in the territory. Falun Gong is legal in Hong Kong despite an 18-month old official campaign on the mainland to eradicate the group.
The criticism drew condemnations in Hong Kong that Beijing was endangering the territory’s autonomy. Beijing has promised Hong Kong more religious and political freedom than the mainland.