EU Parliament Says China Deal Threatens EU Credibility on Human Rights

EU Parliament Says China Deal Threatens EU Credibility on Human Rights
Flags of the European Union fly outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on May 11, 2016. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Alexander Zhang

The European Parliament has criticized the EU executive for rushing to reach an investment agreement with the Chinese regime despite ongoing repression in Hong Kong and other parts of China.

The European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, said on Dec. 30 that it had agreed with Beijing “in principle” on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).

The deal, which was seven years in the making, was concluded after the communist regime made commitments to expand market access for European businesses and to improve China’s labor standards.

But, in a resolution on the oppression in Hong Kong, which was passed on Thursday, the European Parliament said it “regrets” that the deal “has not reflected Parliament’s requests in previous resolutions on Hong Kong to use investment negotiations as a leverage tool aimed at preserving Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, as well as its basic rights and freedoms.”

The EU legislature also “regrets the fact that, by rushing to reach this agreement while not taking concrete action against ongoing grave human right violations, for example in Hong Kong, Xinjiang province and Tibet, the EU risks undermining its credibility as a global human rights actor.”

The Parliament pledged it “will carefully scrutinise the agreement, including its provisions on labour rights.”

It said it “will take the human rights situation in China, including in Hong Kong, into account when asked to endorse the investment agreement or future trade deals with the PRC [People’s Republic of China].”

The EU-China pact was criticized by the Trump administration, whose deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger said earlier this month that the deal, made despite China’s “grotesque human rights abuses,” had shocked American politicians on both sides of the aisle at a time when a new U.S. presidential administration was imminent.
Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, also condemned the deal and urged the European Parliament to reject it.

The European Parliament resolution also urged EU leaders to “promptly consider” the introduction of targeted sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials who are responsible for the abuse in Hong Kong, including Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive; Xia Baolong, director of China’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office; and Luo Huining, head of China's Hong Kong liaison office.

The Parliament “strongly” welcomed the UK government’s offer of a pathway to citizenship for Hong Kong residents who hold British National Overseas (BNO) passports.

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Friday that the European Parliament should "stop any form of meddling" in Hong Kong affairs, according to AFP.