The EU will limit the export of “sensitive” equipment that could be used for surveillance in Hong Kong as part of a joint response to China’s new “national security” legislation in the region.
EU foreign ministers expressed “grave concern” in conclusions adopted Tuesday, saying the new law restricts fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, and calling for measures at both the national and EU level to restrict trade, review extradition rules and halt any new negotiations with Hong Kong.
“The purpose of the various measures and of the package as a whole is to express political support for Hong Kong’s autonomy under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle, and solidarity for the people of Hong Kong,” the conclusions state.
“The EU is particularly concerned about the extensive erosion of rights and freedoms that were supposed to remain protected until at least 2047; about the lack of safeguards and clarity in the law; and about its extraterritorial provisions.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a tweet that the coordinated response sends a “clear message of solidarity with Hong Kong’s people.”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who currently chairs the regular meetings of foreign ministers under his country’s Council of the EU presidency, also welcomed the new measures.
“I am glad that we have today reached consensus among EU Foreign Ministers on Council conclusions on Hong Kong,” he said in a statement, adding that now member countries “have a common toolbox” to take action.
Maas also noted that his country already took a first step by immediately halting exports of military equipment and so-called dual-use goods to Hong Kong as it already does with China.
With regards to trade, the joint statement proposed “further scrutinising and limiting exports of specific sensitive equipment and technologies for end-use in Hong Kong, in particular where there are grounds to suspect undesirable use relating to internal repression, the interception of internal communications or cybersurveillance.”
EU foreign ministers also agreed to consider interventions on visa and migration rules as well as on extradition treaties, as already done by the U.K., Canada and Australia.
The ministers had announced two weeks ago plans for a coordinated response to show support for Hong Kong’s autonomy.
“We look at the possibilities to further scrutinize exports of specific and sensitive technologies to Hong Kong,” Borrell said at the time, adding that “some member states may already announce national measures as part of this package in the coming days.”
The statement comes as China is increasingly coming under fire for its actions in Hong Kong and for reports of forced labor and other human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region.
Earlier on Tuesday, Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and trade chief Phil Hogan held a videoconference with China’s Vice Premier Liu He to discuss trade and economy issues.
“Human rights are not the focus of these meetings in general and particularly today’s meeting,” a Commission spokesperson said before the end of the videoconference, adding that “there should be no misunderstanding on China’s part as to our position on these important issues.”
An official statement released after the talks makes no reference to trade or economic measures aimed at sanctioning China for human rights violations and forced labor.
Hans von der Burchard contributed reporting.
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