European Parliament adopts report on EU-China relations

On 14 March 2013 the European Parliament (EP) voted its report on EU-China relations. The Rapporteur in charge of drafting the report was MEP Bastian Belder (NL, Europe for freedom and democracy) of the Committee of Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET).

The main positive aspect pointed out in this report is the recent, vast economic development in China that has lifted a large part of the population out of poverty. However, the EP regretted that this was not yet matched by progress with political liberties, human rights and social integration.

The report highlighted the serious human rights situation in Tibet, mentioning the disturbing number of self-immolations since 2009 (107 by Tibetans in the PRC). It pointed out that lasting stability in the autonomous provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang could not be achieved by Tibetan and Uighur peoples’ forced assimilation, cultural destruction or repressive police and security methods, but only “by seriously addressing all indigenous complaints in order to create genuinely shared responsibility for the well-being of both autonomous provinces”.

“We welcome this balanced report on EU-China relations, as the main human rights concerns in China are reflected in it”, said Vincent Metten, EU Policy Director of ICT Brussels. “We appreciate that the situation in Tibet and self-immolations are included, and that it gives concrete recommendations to the other European institutions. In our view, the EU and China can only become real strategic partners when genuine and concrete improvements on human rights will take place in Tibet as well as in the rest of China. This is a necessary precondition for stable EU-China relations.”

In this context the EP once again voiced its concern with regard to the lack of substantial progress and the failure to produce concrete and visible results of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue,calling on the EEAS, the Council, the Commission and the newly appointed EUSpecial Representative for Human Rights “to step up their efforts in order to give this process new impetus and make this dialogue more effective and result-oriented”.

The report also stressed that pragmatic cooperation between the EU and China could be fostered through Europe’s 2020 Strategy and China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, and called on EU Member States to give the European External Action Service (EEAS), and especially its Delegation in Beijing, a clear mandate to strengthen the EU-China Strategic Partnership by speaking with one voice to the Chinese Government. At the same time the EP also asked the new Chinese leadership to ensure that China’s economic success is not undermined by a “red aristocracy of enormously rich party leaders”.

The report welcomed the EU-China talks on trade and investments, and particularly the agreements reached during the 15th EU-China Summit held in Brussels on 20 September 2012 regarding the negotiation of an agreement on investment, underlining that the EU wants to step up the dialogue on fighting counterfeiting.

However, the EP also expressed its concerns with regard to the close relations between China and the dictatorial regime of North Korea calling on China to take more responsibility for stability on the Korean Peninsula and resume talks on the North Korean nuclear threat.

Of particular importance for the International Campaign for Tibet is the chapter on human rights and democracy (paragraphs 21 – 35). As a matter of fact, the EP deplored the unwillingness of the Chinese Government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the ongoing severe human rights violations with regard to labour rights, press freedom, censorship of the internet and the number of executions under China’s death penalty legislation.

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