As expected, the China’s Peoples Representative Committee adopted on Thursday 28th May a draft Security Law for Hong Kong, which has been widely interpreted as a breach of the international treaty registered with the United Nations, “The Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong”, signed in 1984 between China and the United Kingdom.
The EU’s High Representative on Foreign Policy Josep Borrell issued the following statement yesterday after discussing with the EU’s 27 Foreign Ministers, “The EU expresses its grave concern at the steps taken by China on 28 May, which are not in conformity with its international commitments (Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984) and the Hong Kong Basic Law. This risks to seriously undermine the ‘One Country Two Systems’ principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.”
“EU relations with China are based on mutual respect and trust. This decision further calls into question China’s will to uphold its international commitments. We will raise the issue in our continuing dialogue with China.”
Whilst not going as far as statements made by the USA, Canada, Australia the United Kingdom and others, the EU position nevertheless clearly indicates that the bloc considers that the trust between the EU and China risks to be broken if the draft law progresses further without any consultation with the people and the institutions of Hong Kong.
The European Parliament has been more forthright in its condemnation of the move and has denounced the constant and increasing interference by China in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. They are demanding that EU Foreign Ministers reiterate the EU’s support for the existing Sino-British Joint Declaration which grants Hong Kong’s a high degree of autonomy until at least 2047. The EPP Group is pushing to have the situation in Hong Kong debated at the next plenary session of the European Parliament on 17-19 June.
“More than the Coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party fears the freedom virus which affects Hong Kong and prefers to proceed with a law which is contrary to the Joint Declaration it subscribed to. We stood then and we stand today with the democrats of Hong Kong and reiterate our support for the ‘one country, two systems’ principle. The Chinese assertion that this declaration is no longer valid has no legal grounds at all”, says Michael Gahler MEP.
“This unilateral move by China is an affront to Hong Kong’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms, as well as to international agreements. European leaders, together with our democratic allies, have a duty to stand with the people of Hong Kong”, added Miriam Lexmann MEP, a member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
“During the 2019 EU-China summit, the Chinese agreed they would support the peaceful settlement of regional disputes and conflicts through dialogue and consultation. We would prefer to see such dialogue and consultation instead of the massive protests on the streets of Hong Kong”, commented Radosław Sikorski MEP.
This issue threatens to dominate the foreign affairs agenda for the EU for the months to come, and it can be anticipated that China will be launching a sustained propaganda campaign designed to divide and rule the positions of EU member states bilaterally, thereby weakening the EU’s joint position. Josep Borrell’s response so far has been necessarily measured, but China should be under no illusion about the permanent damage that may be caused to its relations with the EU if international trust is broken.