Keeping Hong Kong Free: EU’s China Gamble Reaches Tipping Point

Written by | Friday, June 5th, 2020

The EU has expressed ‘grave concern’ over developments in Hong Kong, but has stopped short of tabling sanctions against China. The recent passing of the new national security law by China’s parliament has led to renewed mass demonstrations in Hong Kong and to violent clashes between protesters and police. After an online Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting on Friday (29 May), the EU’s Foreign Policy chief Josep Borrell defended the ‘one country, two systems’ principle but said that “we will continue discussing, we will continue reaching out to Beijing.” On the other side of the Atlantic, the US is taking a different approach, notably by declaring that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous from China and also by threatening Beijing with trade sanctions.
With some EU economies heavily dependant on business with China, the bloc is struggling to speak with one voice. And EU-China relations will soon be the political hot potato for Germany that will be leading the EU Council from next month. With Germany at the EU‘s helm, there are high hopes that these internal divisions will come to an end – “If not Germany, then who else is able to try to do this?” asks MEP Urmas Paet. This former Foreign Affairs Minister of Estonia also questions if there can be more understanding in the EU member state capitals that „efficient, well, policy efficient, relations with China demand Europe’s common approach because Europe is strong only when we are united, also in relations with China.”
While the EU has struggled to find a middle way between the US-Chinese rivalry, the UK has thrown its weight behind the people of Hong Kong by releasing a joint statement with Australia, Canada and the United States in which they reiterated their “deep concern” over the new security law. In an open rebuke to China, the four powers slammed “China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong [because it] lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.” London also vowed to extend visa rights and provide 300,000 Hong Kong British nationals (overseas) passport holders with a path to citizenship should China impose a controversial security law that would curtail freedoms in the territory.

Article Categories:
Asia-Pacific · GLOBAL EUROPE

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