European parliament slams Hong Kong rights abuses under draconian security law

The European Parliament calls for possible sanctions against high-ranking officials presiding over the crackdown.
By Liu Aoran and Raymond Chung
2022.01.21
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European parliament slams Hong Kong rights abuses under draconian security law Potential targets of EU sanctions Hong Kong Chief Secretary John Lee (L), Chief Executive Carrie Lam (2nd R), and Secretary for Security Chris Tang (R) at a news conference in Hong Kong, June 25, 2021.
AFP

The European Parliament passed a motion on Friday condemning ongoing human rights abuses by authorities in Hong Kong under a crackdown on dissent linked to a draconian national security law imposed by China.

The motion called for the immediate and unconditional release of all those arrested under the law, which was imposed on Hong Kong by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from July 1, 2020.

"[This Parliament] ... calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all peaceful Hong Kong protesters arrested in recent years, including Joshua Wong, Ivan Lam, and Agnes Chow, and for all charges against them to be dropped," the motion said.

It also called for "independent, impartial, effective and prompt investigations into the use of force by the Hong Kong police against protesters" during the 2019 protest movement, which began as an outpouring of mass, peaceful protest against plans to allow extradition to mainland China, and broadened to include demands for fully democratic elections and great official accountability.

It said the law "damages Hong Kong’s international status by eroding its autonomy and democracy, the independence of the justice system and its respect for human rights," and hit out at Europe-based banks for colluding with the CCP in freezing the assets of "suspects" under the national security law.

The motion also highlighted "the tangible risk that Hong Kong could be integrated into the Chinese firewall" despite having enjoyed relatively free internet access so far.

It called on the EU to look into sanctions against Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, former police chief-turned-security secretary Chris Tang, and high-ranking CCP officials overseeing the crackdown, including Xia Baolong, Zhang Xiaoming and Luo Huining.

The move drew an angry response from Beijing, with a spokesperson of the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong expressing "strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition" to the motion.

"[We call on] certain politicians in the European Parliament to ... immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any form, and in China's internal affairs," the spokesman said.

He said Beijing had used the national security law to "improve" Hong Kong's electoral system by ensuring that only "patriots" approved by a CCP-backed committee could run in elections.

A combination of file photos showing Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong (L), activist Ivan Lam (C) and then-student activist Agnes Chow (R), who were jailed on December 2, 2020 for taking part in the huge democracy protests in 2019. Credit AFP
A combination of file photos showing Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong (L), activist Ivan Lam (C) and then-student activist Agnes Chow (R), who were jailed on December 2, 2020 for taking part in the huge democracy protests in 2019. Credit AFP
'Symbolic statement'

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that Hong Kong had returned to "the right path of development" under the national security law.

"China urges the European Parliament to respect the facts, not to confuse right and wrong ... to reflect on itself and change its habit of lecturing [others]," Zhao told a regular news conference in Beijing.

Hui Ching, research director at the Hong Kong Zhiming Institute, said the motion also called for the use of trade and investment negotiations as leverage over China's human rights record.

"If the EU is unwilling to do business with Hong Kong, it will be a loss for Hong Kong, and trade may drop by a few percentage points," Hui said. "But it won't be a structural or a devastating blow."

Taiwan strategic analyst Shih Chien-yu noted, however, that the motion isn't binding on EU member states.

"These are all suggestions," Shih said. "The European Parliament represents the views of European society, and Europe has reached a consensus on this issue, but the problem is that they need to make a specific response, and whether they will do that remains uncertain right now."

"It the absence of a policy decision ... this is just a symbolic statement."

Cooperation on Taiwan

The motion also noted that the CCP's treatment of Hong Kong had alienated the democratic island of Taiwan, which China claims must one day be ruled by the CCP under the same "one country, two systems" promise it made to Hong Kong.

"[This Parliament] emphasizes its willingness to cooperate with international partners in order to help secure democracy in Taiwan," the motion said.

Taiwan foreign ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou welcomed the motion.

"The motion emphasizes that respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law should remain at the core of EU-China relations, and condemns China's economic coercion and intimidation against Lithuania," she said, in a reference to an appended clause to the motion.

"The adoption of this emergency resolution reflects the European Parliament's view that China's recent economic coercion against Lithuania is urgent and that it should immediately provide Lithuania with the necessary support," she said.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to see that the European Parliament continues to support Lithuania with concrete action, and will continue to deepen cooperation [with partners] sharing the values of democracy, freedom, the rule of law and human rights, so as to jointly deal with the global impact of authoritarianism," Ou said.

Translate and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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