BRUSSELS—The European Council, which is made up of the leaders of the EU’s 28 member states, made its first official statement on Hong Kong Wednesday during a debate held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
“The European Union supports firmly the introduction of universal suffrage in Hong Kong in line with the fundamental principles and in line with the one country, two systems principle, and in line with the desires of the people of Hong Kong,” read Secretary of the European Council on Foreign Affairs Benedetto Della Vedova.
The statement is the first official word from the council since the protests for universal suffrage in Hong Kong started almost a month ago.
The European Commission, the executive body of the EU, released a statement on Oct. 2 that was more cautious in its support for the protesters.
“We encourage all parties to work in a spirit of compromise for a constructive solution within the framework of the Basic Law and the principle of One Country, Two Systems, toward a fair electoral system which allows a high degree of political participation by the people of Hong Kong,” the statement read.
Some members of the European Parliament (MEPs), said in the debate proceeding the council’s statement that the EU should have spoken sooner and more forcefully, as the protests have been going on for 27 days already.
“I don’t think we should be so shy when defending democracy. We should defend the freedom of speech, political freedom and the freedom to vote,” said Cristian Dan Preda MEP from Romania.
At the beginning of October, a spate of police violence against the nonviolent protesters brought back memories of the pro-democracy protests in Beijing in 1989 that ended in the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Charles Tannock MEP, from the United Kingdom, said he hoped China would take this chance to distance itself from this horrific event.
“We in Europe should encourage authoritarian China to understand that allowing Hong Kong to flourish democratically as it wishes is an opportunity for the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to express itself in confidence and not a chance to repress, by parading its insecurities as sadly we saw a couple of decades ago in Tiananmen Square,” said Tannock.
The Hong Kong protests, also known as the Umbrella Movement, began on Sept. 26 and quickly gathered thousands of supporters in the center of the special administrative region.
China stated that any candidates would be vetted by a committee, which opponents said would ensure that whoever is elected is friendly with the mainland.