EU Levels Trade Sanctions Over Hong Kong Security Law
29 Jul 2020

The European Union imposed sanctions on China over its treatment of Hong Kong on Tuesday, inching the bloc closer to the Trump administration’s more hawkish stance toward Beijing.

The sanctions include limiting exports of equipment China could use for repression and reassessing extradition arrangements in light of Beijing’s imposition of a draconian national security law. The U.K., which this year left the EU, recently suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

EU governments will work to ease visa and asylum opportunities for Hong Kong residents. The EU indicated it could take further steps at the end of the year.

China reacted angrily to the sanctions, with a spokesman for the Chinese mission to the EU telling the bloc “to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any way.” Hong Kong residents know best if the region’s “One Country, Two Systems” oversight is operational and “the vast majority” support the new law, the spokesman said.

“China is firmly against the EU’s wrong moves and has made serious representations with the EU side,” said the spokesman.

Europe’s sanctions come on the same day as EU and Chinese officials held a round of talks on a long-discussed investment agreement that the bloc hopes would give its companies greater and fairer access to the vast market. EU officials have said Beijing’s reluctance in those areas endangers ties.

A Chinese statement on the talks said “fruitful results and consensus” were achieved on the investment agreement and other topics.

European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said the two sides still “need to address sticking points such as reciprocity in the way our companies are treated.”

The EU last year labeled China a “systemic rival” and has since increased screening of Chinese investments. Brussels has warned Beijing that without the investment agreement it won’t sign up to new economic agreements.

European businesses, especially German companies, rely on China’s market for profits and growth, so a deep rupture like that between the U.S. and China appears unlikely. European governments differ in posture toward China and even the EU’s office combating foreign disinformation has struggled to adopt a consistent position on China’s aggressive diplomacy.

By Laurence Norman and James Marson, The Wall Street Journal, 28 July 2020

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