China's Hong Kong law 'grave concern', sanctions no solution: EU

Bloc says move could impact China-EU ties, but rules out taking any action against its major trading partner.

The European Union has criticised China for asserting more control over Hong Kong and suggested the move would have an impact on China-EU relations – but the 27-nation bloc ruled out taking any action against its major trading partner.

“We express our grave concern at the steps taken by China,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday after chairing a video meeting of the foreign ministers. “Our relations with China are based on mutual respect and trust. I want to underline this – respect and trust – but this decision calls this into question.”


  • US, UK, Canada, Australia condemn China over national security legislation 

  • Taiwan condemns new Hong Kong security legislation

  • Pompeo declares Hong Kong ‘no longer autonomous’ from China

On Thursday, the Chinese parliament rubber-stamped a national security law that will bypass Hong Kong’s internal legislature and punish subversion, secession and “terrorism” in the semi-autonomous territory.

Critics and rights activists fear the law will be used to quash political dissent in the former British colony, whose people had been promised that their rights and freedoms would be respected following its 1997 handover to Beijing.

Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong fear the law could severely restrict political activity and civil society and view it as an assault the regional financial hub’s autonomy.

‘Don’t think sanctions are the way’

“This risks to seriously undermine the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong,” Borrell told reporters.

When asked if Brussels might threaten sanctions, he said, “I don’t think that sanctions are the way to solve problems in China.”

Borrell said only one of the member states raised the issue of possible sanctions, but he did not name the country. 

An EU-China summit is scheduled in Germany in September this year. Borrell said its timetable might change due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The cautious EU statement came after the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia on Thursday issued stern criticism of the Chinese legislation.

The US called on China to back off on the security law, while the UK warned it would extend the visas and possibly provide a path to citizenship for some British passport holders from Hong Kong.

Hong Kong to be raised at UNSC

Britain and the US also announced plans to informally raise the issue at the United Nations Security Council on Friday, diplomats said, a move likely to anger Beijing.

Britain’s UN mission confirmed that Britain and the US notified the 15-member Security Council that it would raise the issue on Hong Kong behind closed doors under “any other business”.

The move comes after China, backed by Russia, opposed a US call on Wednesday for a formal open council meeting on Hong Kong, arguing that it was an internal matter and not an issue of international peace and security.

China’s mission to the UN did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the US and British plan to raise the issue informally on Friday.

The Security Council has been meeting virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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