by N. Peter Kramer
‘Signatories to this statement reiterate deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong….to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN registered, Sino-British Joint Declaration’, wrote UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo.
And where is the European Union? For EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, it seems that the most important aspect of China’s move to strengthen its legal grip on Hong Kong is that it did not put ‘investment deals’ at risk. He also said that China’s new legislature for Hong Kong did not put at risk a planned EU-China summit in September in the German city of Leipzig. Borrell’s confidence in China is not shared by the European Chamber of Commerce in Beijing or by the powerful German business lobby the BDI, which have issued warnings about the commercial threat of the new legal framework.
The EU’s decision not to use its leverage as the self-declared world’s biggest trade bloc comes in stark contrast to the US, which is threatening trade measures if Beijing proceeds with imposing the national security law in Hong Kong. On being asked, Borrell answered ‘I don’t think sanctions are the way to solve problems with China’.
It is the third time in a few weeks that the EU has bowed to Chinese pressure. Worried about repercussions, Borrell gave in to Beijing by softening EU criticism of China in an official EU document. A week later, an open letter for the China Daily, written by the 27 EU permanent representatives, was ‘censored’ before publication by Borrell’s man in Beijing, also at the request of Chinese officials. Is it odd looking at the EU reaction to Beijing’s new Hong Kong legislation, one might think that the EU genuflected for a third Chinese intervention?