The European Union on Wednesday threatened to send a delegation to Hong Kong in protest of China’s recent revamp of the semi-autonomous island’s political system.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, expressed alarm over the changes that were adopted by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in March and passed by Hong Kong’s Legislative Council in May. Among those changes were a measure reducing the number of members who can be elected directly by Hong Kong residents and a boost to the number of Beijing-approved candidates.
Borrell also blasted Hong Kong for the arrests of pro-democracy figures under a strict law intended to protect national security.
“The EU calls on China to act in accordance with its international commitments and its legal obligations and to respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms. The targeting of those who defend rights and freedoms and democratic values should end and independence of the judiciary should be upheld,” Borrell said in a statement.
“The EU expects the Chinese and the Hong Kong authorities to restore confidence in Hong Kong’s democratic process. The EU calls on all parties to respect the independence of the judiciary in Hong Kong.”
Borrell said the EU would ramp up its cooperation with the civil sector in Hong Kong and that “high-level” diplomats from the bloc would consider making a trip to the island.
“It will intensify its response to the situation in Hong Kong, notably through increasing support to its civil society and media, promoting freedom of expression, facilitating mobility of Hong Kong citizens, as well as ensuring observation of the trials of pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. A visit of high-level EU officials will be considered,” he said.
The announcement is likely to rankle Beijing, which is sensitive to any perceived efforts to interfere in its domestic affairs.
President BidenJoe BidenWhite House announces major boost to global vaccine supply U.S. in talks to buy Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to send abroad: report Pentagon to consider authorizing airstrikes in Afghanistan if country falls into crisis: report MORE is expected try to rally European allies into backing a common stance toward China’s aggressiveness in Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere as he attends meetings this week with the Group of Seven (G-7), NATO and other European leaders.