The High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Common Security, Josep Borrell, has announced that the first sanctions against China have been approved for the first time in more than three decades. These measures are part of a group of sanctions that have been decided by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the EU against countries guilty of abusing and not respecting human rights.
The EU will impose a travel ban on its territory and will block the assets of 4 chinese high officials operating in the Xinjiang, the same province where China has been accused to have put in place a systematic violation of human rights against the local muslim population, the Uyghurs.
The diplomatic initiative is the result of a broad coordination with the rest of the western allies, Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and the US, with the goal of imposing at the same time the same measures against the Chinese officials.
The Chinese reaction
It did not take long for the Chinese reaction to arrive, which increased the tensions between the western diplomacies and the Chinese one to an even higher level. In fact, while the european sanctions concerned only 4 Chinese officials in the Xinjiang Province, the Chinese retaliation, which was published in an inflammatory press release from the spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, concerns directly the european institutions. 10 individuals (5 EMPs, 3 MPs from the national parliaments and 2 experts) and 4 entities have been touched by the measures. Among the 4 entities, one is a think-tank led by the former NATO head Rasmussen, and two are directly tied to the Council of the EU and the European Parliament. In fact the two institutions are the sub-commission charged to Human Rights of the EU Parliament and the Security and Defense Section of the Council of the EU, both charged and responsible for the approval and the promotion of the sanctions against China. Moreover, the Chinese Foreign Affairs’ Vice Minister, Qin Qang, has summoned the european ambassador in China, Nicolas Chapuis, to communicate to him the official complaint of the Chinese Government.
China, Eu and human rights
Confronted by the gravity of the Chinese reaction, the president of the EU Parliament, David Sassoli, the High Representative to Foreign Policy and Common Security, Josep Borrel, as of several european diplomacies, clarified firmly that “the Chinese sanctions are unacceptable and will have consequences” and that “there won’t be any change in the European policies with regards to human rights”.
In the coming days the european response is expected, and it will be proportional to the magnitude of the Chinese reaction. In addition, the response is expected to touch the matter of Hong Kong, where until now the EU has not yet imposed any formal measures on the Chinese government.