EU Parliament says no to investment deal with Beijing without freedom in Hong Kong

Repression of the democratic movement in the former British colony condemned. Calls for targeted sanctions against the officials responsible for the crackdown. The Union had to use the negotiations to preserve the autonomy of the city state. Defending human rights also in Xinjiang and Tibet.

Brussels (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The European Union Parliament yesterday voted a resolution condemning the repression of the democratic movement in Hong Kong carried out by local and central government authorities.

MEPs specified that the human rights situation in the former British colony will be taken into consideration when at the end of the year they are called upon to ratify the great bilateral investment agreement between the Union and Beijing.

On December 30, after more than seven years of negotiations, the two sides reached an agreement in principle to finalize the pact. The EU argues that it will serve to rebalance economic relations with the Asian giant, accused of taking advantage of unfair commercial practices, such as subsidies to state-owned enterprises and social dumping.

For years, Europeans have been demanding reciprocity of treatment for their investors. While Chinese companies can operate almost freely in Europe, European companies in China are obliged to create joint-ventures with local companies and to pass on technological and industrial secrets to them.

EU deputies have called for targeted sanctions against Hong Kong and Beijing officials responsible for cracking down on pro-democracy protesters. They stressed that the signing of the agreement with China made Europe lose its credibility as a champion of human rights.

The accusation against the European Commission and Germany (the first sponsor of the agreement) is that they did not use the negotiations as an instrument of pressure to preserve Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens. The same goes for the serious violations of human rights in the Chinese provinces of Xinjiang and Tibet.

Press revelations about the existence of labour camps in Xinjiang, where hundreds of thousands of Uyghur and Kazakh Muslims would be forcibly employed to harvest cotton, seemed to have undermined the conclusion of the deal.

The EU and China have agreed on a formula under which the Chinese government commits to effectively applying the ILO (World Labour Organization) conventions that it has already signed, and to "work on the ratification" of all the others, especially that on the fight against forced labour.

The EU Commission defends itself from the accusations by arguing that the agreement with Beijing has yet to be ratified: its full implementation is not expected before two years, during which the Union will verify the commitments made by its Chinese counterpart.