EU as Human Rights Champion: India, Belarus and Hong Kong in Spotlight

Written by | Thursday, January 14th, 2021

The European Union often refers to its commitment to support human rights and democracy around the world, especially at this time of the pandemic, in line with its mantra „No one left behind, no human right ignored.“ The EU’s attention has in recent months focused also on the state of human rights and democracy in India, Belarus and Hong Kong.
In light of the deteriorating human rights situation in India, the EU-India Human Rights dialogue took place on Tuesday (12 January). The civic space in the South Asian country has been squeezed tighter from all directions over the past couple of years. Religious minorities, human rights defenders, and government critics have all been under pressure from several vaguely defined laws – including counter terrorism legislations – that are used to suppress them. India’s recently amended Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) has recently prompted Amnesty International to close its operations in India over alleged violations of the Act. Last year, the protests against Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) have helped bring different castes, religions and otherwise unconnected levels of society together. Human rights organizations and experts have urged the EU to support these forces and make it clear to the Indian government that it will not look the other way when human rights violations happen in the country.
Meanwhile, British citizenship and international awards are not enough to make Belarusian dissident Natalia Kaliada and her husband Nicolai Khalezin feel safe after a high-profile death threat. “We will definitely find you … and we will hang you, side-by-side,” the main Belarusian government newspaper, Sovietska Belarus, wrote on 27 December 2020. These sensational revelations made by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko‘s former spy-chief and recently published by EUobserver shed light on the country’s strongman’s brutal tactics, including his alleged authorisation of political murders of exiled Belarusian dissidents and opponents of his regime in Germany in recent years. The Germany attacks never took place, but the plot, which discussed the use of explosives and poison, shows the danger posed to EU states by his rogue regime.
Senior EU figures have rounded on China over Beijing’s latest crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. The strong rebuke comes after Hong Kong police arrested 53 pro-democracy advocates in dawn raids on 72 premises last week, in the biggest crackdown since China last year imposed a security law which opponents say is aimed at quashing dissent in the former British colony. The authorities in Hong Kong said last year’s unofficial vote to choose opposition candidates in city elections was part of a plan to “overthrow” the government. The arrests were linked to an unprecedented, independently organised and non-binding vote to select opposition candidates for a since-postponed legislative election. Some have long accused the bloc of double standards in its relations with China, an accusation again made after an EU-China investment deal agreement was clinched just on the last day of 2020 that should supposedly give European companies greater access to Chinese markets and help redress what the EU sees as unbalanced economic ties.

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