New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to members of the media at the scene of a fatal hostel fire, in Wellington, New Zealand, 16 May 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/BEN MCKAY AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

New Zealand’s PM says Xi Jinping not a dictator ahead of China visit

Sydney, Australia, June 22 (EFE).- New Zealand’s Prime Minister Chris Hipkins on Thursday disagreed with US President Joe Biden’s description of Chinese President Xi Jinping as a dictator ahead of his upcoming trip to China.

Biden referred to Xi as a “dictator” at a fundraising event for his re-election campaign in Kentfield, California, on Tuesday.

When questioned by reporters if he agreed with Biden’s assessment, Hipkins replied “no.”

“The form of government that China has is a matter for the Chinese people (…) if they wanted to change their system of government, well, that would be a matter for them,” Hipkins said, public broadcaster 1News reported.

Hipkins will lead a trade delegation to travel to China on Sunday.

During the official visit, which will conclude on Friday, Hipkins is scheduled to meet Xi and other senior political representatives.

China on Wednesday slammed Biden’s remarks as “extremely absurd and irresponsible.”

The remarks came just one day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Xi to ease recent tensions between the two countries.

New Zealand, whose largest trading partner is China, has a close but strained relationship with Beijing and is wary of the Asian giant’s growing influence in the Pacific region, which has historical links with Wellington.

While announcing his visit to China last week, Hipkins said that despite the countries’ strong trade ties he will maintain a “consistent” position on expressing concerns about human rights violations by China. EFE