Hong Kong Activists Urge EU Not to Sign China Investment Deal

Twenty-four Hong Kong pro-democracy activists have written to European Union leaders and lawmakers urging them not to sign the EU–China investment pact unless the Chinese regime repeals its National Security Law for the former British colony.

Thirteen of the co-signatories of the letter are living in exile as a result of Beijing’s increasingly brutal crackdown on dissent, following the imposition of the National Security Law in June 2000.

The letter was released on March 11, hours after China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), approved a draft decision to change Hong Kong’s electoral system, making it virtually impossible for the opposition to affect the outcome of elections.

“Given that Beijing is in the process of rewriting Hong Kong’s electoral system in direct contravention to its international obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, is currently undertaking mass arrests and trials of pro-democracy lawmakers and activists under the draconian National Security Law, and is infringing on basic freedoms guaranteed both under the Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, we do not see how the EU can move ahead with ratification of this investment treaty,” the letter said.

“It is simply absurd for the EU to expect China to uphold its obligations under a new bilateral investment treaty, when it is openly floating [sic] its current obligations to the international community to guarantee the autonomy and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong.”

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, reached an agreement “in principle” with Beijing in December of 2020 on the EU–China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI).

EU China investment
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are seen on a screen during a video conference, in Brussels, on Dec. 30, 2020. (Johanna Geron/Pool/Reuters)

The deal, which was seven years in the making, was concluded after the communist regime made commitments to expand market access for European businesses and to improve China’s labor standards.

Ted Hui, a former Hong Kong Democratic Party lawmaker who now lives in exile in Australia, urged EU leaders to “search their conscience” and “ask whether the last few weeks of oppression in Hong Kong will continue if they push ahead with the ratification of the EU-China investment partnership.”

Ray Wong, the first refugee from Hong Kong to receive asylum in Germany, said the deal “will weaken the bloc’s ability to take a principled stand” on the oppression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

The EU–China deal was condemned by the Trump administration and criticized by EU lawmakers.

In a resolution passed on Jan. 21, the European Parliament said it “regrets” that the EU executive had rushed to reach the agreement, despite ongoing repression in Hong Kong and other parts of China.

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