The European Union said Friday that China’s imposition of a security law on Hong Kong had damaged ties with Beijing, but that imposing sanctions would not solve the crisis.
“The EU expresses its grave concern at the steps taken by China on 28 May, which are not in conformity with its international commitments,” EU top diplomat Josep Borrell said, on behalf of 27 member states.
“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,” he said after talks with foreign ministers.
But, asked whether Brussels might threaten sanctions after China’s rubber-stamp parliament approved the new law, Borrell said: “I don’t think that sanctions are the way to solve problems in China.”
Borrell said that only one of the member states — he did not say which — had raised the issue of possible sanctions, and added that plans to hold an EU-China summit in Germany later this year were not in question.
China’s President Xi Jinping is due to meet the EU’s 27 leaders in Leipzig in September. Borrell said the timetable of the meeting might yet change due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The cautious EU statement came after the US, Britain, Canada and Australia issued stern criticism of the planned law, which would punish secession and subversion of state power in Hong Kong.
Chinese security agencies will also be allowed to operate openly in Hong Kong, which has been an autonomous territory under its own basic law within China under the terms of its handover from Britain in 1997.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK will improve the rights of British National (Overseas) passport holders — a status offered to many Hong Kong residents — if China goes ahead.
And the United States has revoked the special status conferred on Hong Kong under its own diplomatic rules, paving the way for the territory to be stripped of trading and economic privileges.
Brussels did not go so far, but Borrell nevertheless stressed that it could not be business as usual.
“We want also to stress that our relationship with China are based on mutual respect and trust… but this decision calls this into question,” Borrell said.
“And I think that we will have to raise the issue in our continued dialogue with China.”