One of the European Union’s most senior leaders has promised to put more pressure on the Chinese authorities over their plans for a Hong Kong national security law, saying the bloc is “not naive” about China’s behaviour around the world.
“Of course we attach great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” Charles Michel, president of the European Council, which consists of the heads of government of all 27 EU nations, said on Tuesday.
“We are in permanent dialogue with the Chinese authorities in order to express our opinions and to defend our interests. You know we also support the important principle, ‘one country two systems’.”
This marks the highest-level statement from the European Union since the National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, last week said it planned to impose a national security law in Hong Kong.
On Monday, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien likened the situation to one in which “China takes over” the city.
Speaking after a video conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Michel said: “We are very clear. As the European Union, we are not naive about Chinese behaviour at the international level.
“We know it is important to cooperate even if we don’t share the same approach on different topics.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping is planning to meet EU leaders in Germany later this year, and Michel said: “We are working with all the member states in order to prepare our strategy, in order to prepare our position towards China.
“China is an important actor at the international level, but we are convinced that it’s essential, as the European Union, to promote more our values which are very strong, as you know, but also to defend more our interests and also our economic interests.”
On Monday the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, called for a “more robust” approach towards Beijing.
“China is getting more powerful and assertive and its rise is impressive and triggers respect, but also many questions and fears,” he told German diplomats.
“Our relations [with China] must be based on trust, transparency and reciprocity. This is not always the case today. We only have a chance if we deal with China with collective discipline.
“We need a more robust strategy for China, which also requires better relations with democratic Asia.”
The EU’s meeting with Abe was also attended by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who pledged to strengthen the bloc’s geopolitical role when she took office in December.
The EU has also emphasised the role of Japan as a “like-minded partner” in Asia, which shares its values of democracy and human rights.
The meeting on Tuesday focused mostly on joint efforts for a post-coronavirus economic recovery.
Abe and his European counterparts “discussed the geopolitical situation in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to a joint statement.
“They confirmed that access to transparent, timely, reliable and fact-based information is crucial for an effective global response to the pandemic,” it said.
“It constitutes the foundation of good governance and reinforces the resilience of our societies and democracies.”
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This article EU leader promises to put pressure on China over Hong Kong security law first appeared on South China Morning Post