03/17/2021, 14.27
CHINA – EUROPEAN UNION
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China will respond to European Union sanctions

The EU is planning punitive measures for anti-Uyghur repression in Xinjiang. In April, it will also approve sanctions against China for violating the “one country, two systems” principle in Hong Kong. The Chinese admit that US restrictions are hurting. The EU and China are also split over the South China Sea and Taiwan.

Brussels (AsiaNews) – China has warned the European Union against proposed sanctions for its human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Despite the recent signing of a major bilateral investment agreement, the gap between China and Europe appear to be widening, as Europeans express concerns over the situation in Hong Kong and Chinese pressures on Taiwan and the South China Sea.

China’s ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming spoke threateningly about Xinjiang yesterday during an online debate organised by the European Policy Centre.

On 22 March, EU foreign ministers are expected to approve sanctions against four senior Chinese officials and one entity because of China’s repression against Uyghurs and other Turkic groups in Xinjiang, which the indigenous population calls East Turkestan.

According to expert data, backed by the United Nations, more than a million Muslims in the region have been arbitrarily held in concentration camps.

Recent press revelations have documented the existence of labour camps in the Chinese-held autonomous region, where hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz have been forced to work, especially picking cotton.

According to some scholars, the Chinese government is also conducting a campaign of forced sterilisations to control the growth of the Uyghur population.

China has denied all accusations, claiming that the camps in Xinjiang are vocational centres set up as part of a plan to reduce poverty and fight against terrorism and separatism.

Ambassador Zhang said the deradicalisation centres for Muslims are no different from those that exist in the United States, France and Britain.

China is afraid of sanctions, an instrument often criticised. Last week, its foreign ministry admitted that US restrictions, especially the ban on cotton imports, are hurting Xinjiang's economy. The problem with European sanctions is that they are probably too weak.

Meanwhile, many European countries are reconsidering their approach towards China. Lithuania wants, for example, to promote cooperation with Beijing on the basis of respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Lithuanian authorities are also concerned about the future of Hong Kong. In April, the EU is set to take steps to punish Beijing's decision to change the electoral law of the former British colony.

The move by China’s government is considered by the Union to be contrary to the principle of “one country, two systems”, which should guarantee Hong Kong some political and economic autonomy from the mainland.

NATO too has called on the EU and the US to act together to stop China's aggressive policy around the world.

France recently sent some ships to East Asia, which will twice cross the South China Sea, 90 per cent of which is claimed by China

Germany and the United Kingdom plan to do the same this year, with the UK sending one of its two new air carriers.

In the European Parliament, several Members are also calling for support for Taiwan, seen as a virtuous example of democracy. For communist China, the island is a rebel province, to be retaken by force if necessary.

According to French media, Chinese Ambassador to France Lu Shaye last month warned Senator Alain Richard against visiting Taiwan this summer.

In a scathing letter, Lu dismisses the trip as a violation of the “one China principle” and a “wrong” signal of support for Taiwanese independence. Some members of the French Senate have promised a “clear response” to the Chinese envoy's attacks.

Chinese diplomats have acted the same way in other cases; for example, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřibin was attacked for twinning his city with Taipei.

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