N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
The EU joined the U.K., the U.S. and Canada in slapping sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the crackdown on the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang. “By acting with our partners, we are sending the clearest message to the Chinese government, that the international community will not turn a blind eye to such serious and systemic violations of basic human rights, and that we will act, in concert, to hold those responsible to account,” British Foreign Secretary Raab told the Commons.
But… Beijing immediately hit back with punitive measures against the EU: a host of EU officials, MEP’s including the complete sub-committee for Human Rights, ambassadors and other diplomats, institutes, families were targeted and some businesses were banned from trading with China. Members of the European Parliament on the list include the head of the Parliament’s China delegation, Reinhard Butikofer.
China’s sanctions on MEPs and EU bodies are “unacceptable and will certainly have consequences,” said EP President David Sassoli at a meeting with the blacklisted MEPs, adding that “the European Parliament and the European institutions will not be intimidated.” A shudder went through China after these brave words.
The big question now is, what will happen with the landmark EU-China trade deal, personally brokered late last year by Angela Merkel, Ursula Von der Leyen and Charles Michel with Chinese President Xi-Jinping. The EU’s hope was that the deal would make life easier for key investors in China such as German carmakers. Politico quoted, as an answer to the question, Philippe Le Core, China specialist at the Harvard Kennedy School in Boston: ‘My feeling is that China doesn’t care if the deal doesn’t take place. It was more a symbolic victory for China’.