EU lawmakers on Thursday called for officials from the bloc to skip the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics unless China improves on human rights in Hong Kong and for the Uyghur Muslim minority.
The European Parliament vote was another sign of souring ties between the EU and China, already hit by a round of tit-for-tat sanctions over the rights issue that effectively blocked the ratification of a long-negotiated investment deal.
China’s Commissioner’s Office in Hong Kong slammed the vote as “political grandstanding and a stumbling block to mutually beneficial cooperation between China and the EU”.
The non-binding resolution passed with 578 votes in favour, 29 against and 73 abstentions.
It had the backing of all of Europe’s mainstream political groups, including the centre-right EPP group of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the centrists of France’s Emmanuel Macron.
Lawmakers called on the EU’s institutions and member states “to decline invitations for government representatives and diplomats to attend the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics unless the Chinese Government demonstrates a verifiable improvement in the human rights situation in Hong Kong, the Xinjiang Uyghur Region, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and elsewhere in China”.
The resolution condemned “in the strongest terms” the closure of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily tabloid and the arrests of its staff by Chinese authorities.
The acts were “yet another step by China in dismantling free society in Hong Kong and setting the definitive end of media freedom and freedom of expression there,” it said.
Call for fresh sanctions
The deterioration of freedoms under China’s draconian security law for Hong Kong amounted to a “human rights emergency”, the resolution said.
The Hong Kong security law has broken the trust between Europe and Beijing and “leads to a further erosion of Beijing’s credibility on the international stage”.
MEPs stressed “the need for the EU to take urgent and resolute action” and called on Brussels to draw up a fresh wave of sanctions against Chinese authorities.
The resolution said the earlier decision to block an EU-China investment deal stood as long as Chinese sanctions against MEPs and scholars were in place.
The parliament voted overwhelmingly in May to refuse any consideration of the deal as long as sanctions were there.
China says the sanctions are a justified response after the EU imposed punitive measures against Chinese officials over allegations of human rights abuses
Belgium’s parliament also passed a resolution on Thursday warning of a “serious risk of genocide” against China’s Uyghurs.
The resolution aligned the parliament with similar statements by the US administration and a handful of western countries including Britain, Canada and the Netherlands.
It brought a sharp response from China.
“We call on Belgium to immediately correct its error so as to avoid a deterioration in Sino-Belgian relations,” said Chinese foreign ministry official Zhao Lijian.