EU stresses human rights in virtual meet with China

BRUSSELS – The EU on Tuesday (Sept 28) said it told China that human rights are “a key component” of their ties, in a high-level discussion where Taiwan and the Aukus pact also figured.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held the videolink talks under the EU-China Strategic Dialogue, a forum to air issues of concern and discuss cooperation.

A summary from Borrell’s office highlighted the rights issue and linked it to China’s actions in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

It also mentioned the Aukus defence deal tying together Australia, the States and Britain, and underscored the EU’s intent to develop cooperation with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province.

The summary provided by China, through its state-owned Xinhua news agency, mentioned only Aukus among those topics. It did not refer to discussions on human rights or Taiwan.

Wang warned Borrell that the Aukus pact – under which Australia scrapped a deal to buy French submarines to acquire US nuclear-powered submarines to patrol the Indo-Pacific region – carries “hidden dangers”.

He described those as potentially a “resurgence of the Cold War”, “an arms race”, and “nuclear proliferation”.

“We urge the three to follow the trend of the times and play a constructive role in regional peace and stability,” Wang said, according to Xinhua.

Borrell’s summary just “welcomed” a joint statement by presidents Joe Biden of the US and Emmanuel Macron of France on the Aukus issue and his “fruitful exchanges” with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Instead, the EU “stressed the necessity to engage on human rights issues and to resume the EU China Human Rights Dialogue, as a key component of a mature relationship”.

Borrell said he hoped that bilateral human rights forum would happen within the next three months, declaring that it would be “crucial to address the disagreements between the EU and China”.

He added: “In this context, they also discussed the situation in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.”

On Taiwan, Borrell said the EU maintains its “One China” policy but added that the EU and its member countries “have an interest to develop cooperation with Taiwan… without any recognition of statehood”.

Wang on the other hand, according to Xinhua’s report, focused on the need for “mutual respect” between the EU and China and for “expanding cooperation and reducing antagonism”.

He said that common problems the two sides should cooperate on were Covid-19 and climate change.

“We should consolidate this positive momentum, enhance political mutual trust, properly manage differences and contribute as two major forces to addressing global challenges,” Wang said.

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