In a session of the European Parliament on international trade on Wednesday, the Ministers of the Parliament (MEPs) lashed out at the European Commission on its investment deal with China overlooking human rights conditions in China and Hong Kong.
According to media reports, MEPs accused Brussels of overlooking concerns over the prevailing human rights conditions in China, glossing over Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, and not bothering about the Biden administration.
The Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) was signed in December last year, however, it still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament and approved by the EU Council.
German MEP Reinhard Butikofer, who chairs the parliament’s delegation for relations with China, said the deal was a “Christmas present for (Chinese President) Xi Jinping”
“It is particularly deplorable that European leaders sided with the Chinese in the decision to send a signal to the incoming US administration that amounts to a show of the middle finger,” he said.
Last month, the EU-China investment deal faced a new hurdle as a growing number of European Parliament members expressed concern over the mass arrests of over 50 pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong under Beijing’s National Security Law.
“The situation in Hong Kong is followed closely by parliamentarians,” said Bernd Lange, head of the EU parliament’s trade committee, which will be responsible for reviewing the deal later this year.
“Concerns about political freedom and human rights have played a prominent role in past debates on trade policy and will surely do so in the case of the CAI (EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment),” he added, referring to the comprehensive agreement on investment.
The mass arrests, Lange said, “mark a violation of the spirit of the EU-China investment deal’s sustainability commitments”, which include human rights.
Guy Verhofstadt, a prominent EU Parliament member and former Belgian prime minister, said the parliament “will never ratify the China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment without commitments and proof that the human rights of Hongkongers, Uygurs and Tibetans improve”.