WELLINGTON: New Zealand's foreign minister said Saturday she raised concerns over China's human rights abuses and growing tensions with Taiwan in a meeting with her Chinese counterpart.

Nanaia Mahuta told Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang of her government’s “deep concerns regarding the human rights situation in Xinjiang and the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,“ according to a statement issued on Saturday.

In her talks with Qin she also raised concerns “over developments in the South China Sea”, the statement said.

Mahuta this week made the first visit to China by a New Zealand foreign minister since 2018.

China’s ties to Russia were also raised, with Mahuta saying Wellington “would be concerned by any provision of lethal aid in support of Russia’s illegal war.”

New Zealand has previously called out China, its largest trading partner, over reports of the repression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

It has also joined the United States in accusing China of attempting to increase its military presence in the Pacific.

Taiwan's 23.5 million people live under constant threat of an invasion by China, which claims the self-ruled democracy as part of its territory to be seized one day, by force if necessary.

Beijing's sabre-rattling has intensified in recent years under President Xi Jinping, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine has deepened fears in Taiwan that China might move similarly.

Mahuta also met with the Director of China's Central Foreign Affairs Commission, Wang Yi, during her trip.

She said she hoped her trip would mark a resumption of “high-level” discussions between the two nations, touting a potential visit from New Zealand’s new prime minister Chris Hipkins.

“I emphasised Aotearoa New Zealand’s interest in a peaceful, stable and resilient Pacific region,“ Mahuta said. - AFP