Open Letter Calling for a Renewed EU-China Strategy
On 1st October, as China is celebrating the 72nd anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic, President Xi Jinping is further consolidating his power, paving the way for life-long rule in the style of Mao. As a Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong used to pride itself as the last bastion of freedom under China’s rule, where Hongkongers could agree to disagree, the press acted as the fourth power and the government’s watchdog, educators were free to teach their students about the shadows of the Chinese Communist Party’s history, and artists could criticise the Chinese regime through artworks and films. Yet, Chinese authoritarian norms have been rapidly diffused into every fabric of Hong Kong’s society. While the world watches, Hong Kong’s electoral system is being overhauled and its civil society is falling apart. At the same time, the EU’s 27 Member States continue to struggle to achieve a common position on the situation in the city.
The EU is founded on diversity and strives to be a guardian of freedom, democracy, and human rights. We strongly believe that in the increasingly volatile and complex world of global affairs, the EU can demonstrate its determination as the free world’s defender if it can leverage its single market in upholding the rules-based international order. ‘Together We are Stronger’ represents the EU spirit, and this spirit should inform its China strategy. For decades, China observers and experts had been predicting a peaceful rise of the Middle Kingdom, but the genocide in Xinjiang, cultural oppression in Tibet, erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and potential military aggression against Taiwan have shown that China is a totalitarian regime which seeks to export illiberalism, surveillance, and repressive tactics abroad. The EU needs to come together, true to its values and agree a strategy which reflects the new reality of contemporary China.
Increasingly, unchallenged Chinese oppression is felt in the European Union. In April 2021, for example, the Hungarian government, a large recipient of Chinese investment, blocked an EU statement criticising China over Hong Kong, further highlighting Beijing’s leverage in European Affairs. Through increased strategic investments in key Member States across central and eastern Europe, China continues to ensure a unified EU position on relations with Beijing remains a difficult feat to achieve.
Chinese investment in the EU must be given adequate scrutiny to ensure it does not compromise the bloc’s unity.
The cases of Tibet and Xinjiang have exposed the EU’s limitations to date in pushing for improved human rights conditions in China. Greater use of diplomatic tools and other instruments must be adopted to help slow down the further deterioration of Hong Kong’s autonomy. To dissuade China’s aggression in Taiwan, the EU should also strengthen its trade relations with Taipei while adhering to the ‘One China’ policy.
To this end, we, the co-signatories, call on the European Commission and the European External Action Service to develop a new strategy for engagement with China which ensures Beijing’s conscious and systematic human rights violations are adequately addressed, trade relations with Taiwan are pursued, European strategic autonomy is strengthened, and common challenges such as climate change and technology can be collectively tackled.
Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.
Bill Browder, Head of the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign
ChinaAid Association (USA)
Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella” (Italy)
The Ilham Tohti Initiative (Germany) The Italian Federation for Human Rights The Tibet Initiative Deutschland
Alviina Alametsä MEP
Christophe Hansen MEP
David Lega MEP
Engin Eroglu MEP
Francisco Guerreiro MEP
Gianna Gancia MEP
Ivan Štefanec MEP
Riho Terras MEP
Salima Yenbou MEP
Svenja Hahn MEP