Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday, 2 July 2020

The EU must end its appeasement of Chinese interests

Mark Kwan
The Times
Hongkongers like me are in shock after Beijing imposed a new national security law which surpassed our worst fears. It signified the death of “one country, two systems” that we had enjoyed since Britain handed Hong Kong back to China 23 years ago. The new law will snuff out all forms of dissent, allow extradition to China and enable secret policing throughout the territory. The British government, along with others in the Five Eyes security alliance that includes the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is commendably offering Hong Kong people refuge, as is Taiwan. The European parliament has passed a resolution calling on China to be brought before the International Court of Justice over its erosion of Hong Kong’s freedom.
But passing a resolution is one thing; enforcing it is another. Few EU politicians have called for sanctions on China or refuge for Hongkongers, and the leaders of France and Germany have offered nothing more than words. There are three key reasons for this inaction: the EU’s sour relationship with the US, its dependence on trade with China, and the competing priorities of member states.
The EU needs to realise that cosying up to China — as Germany is doing in return for business in Xinjiang province — will only benefit the latter in the long run. The bloc may have disagreements with America but they are nothing compared with the problems it will create for itself by forging deeper ties with China. As we see in China’s cover-up of the original coronavirus outbreak, the communist regime will stop at nothing in pursuit of its own selfish interests. And its programme of foreign investment in poorer European countries is a direct challenge to the EU’s sphere of influence.
For its survival — and Hong Kong’s — the EU must decouple from authoritarian China and mend fences with the Trump administration. It must hold China to account for breaking an international agreement. Otherwise, it is allowing Beijing to dictate its fate for years to come. If China can dismantle the Sino-British Joint Declaration and “one country, two systems” with impunity, it can break other agreements — including trade deals with the EU — whenever it likes.
To prove itself an upholder of freedom as its founders intended, the EU must take a harder line with Beijing. Short-term financial gains are one thing but morality and respect for the law are essential. Appeasement is never an option. 
Mark Kwan (not his real name) is a democracy campaigner in Hong Kong

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