Dutch municipalities breaking ties with China
The Chinese sister city is quickly losing popularity with Dutch municipalities. In the past two years, at least eight municipalities and two provinces have broken formal ties with Chinese counterparts, NRC reports after surveying the administrative bodies involved.
“Sister cities” or “ties of friendship” are formal collaborations between cities in trade and cultural exchange, among other things. A quarter of these collaborations have been canceled in the past two years. Many other municipalities have put their relationship on the back burner, are preparing to sever ties, or have let the friendship fade to such an extent that there is hardly any cooperation anymore, according to NRC.
Breda, Tilburg, and Eindhoven are among the municipalities that have broken ties with their Chinese counterparts after their city councils insisted on it. The Dutch municipalities often refer to the oppression of the Uyghur people, who the Chinese government has persecuted and imprisoned in labor camps, as the reason for the separation.
“We must respect the principles of democracy, the rule of law, freedom of the press and expression,” said Mayor Ahmed Marchouc of Arnhem. His city broke ties with Wuhan in 2021. “By maintaining a relationship with a Chinese city, you create the appearance that you don’t.”
Weert and Capelle aan den IJssel, among others, told NRC that they broke ties because they got little economic benefits from the relationships. Other municipalities said they are “rethinking” their relations, with many saying they want to focus more on friendships with European cities.
Dutch universities are also increasingly reluctant to accept Ph.D. students with a scholarship subsidized by the Chinese government, citing knowledge security as the main reason.