EU prepares measures against China in Hong Kong

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union (EU) is preparing countermeasures against China in response to Beijing’s new security law in Hong Kong, the bloc’s top diplomat said on Monday envoys stressed that the likely measures would not constitute economic sanctions.

FILE PHOTO: Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde attends a press conference with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov (not shown) in Moscow, February 4, 2020. REUTERS / Evgenia Novozhenina

Diplomats said there was broad support among EU member states for action, but tough measures were not discussed in detail due to resistance from China’s closest trading partners in Europe, such as Hungary and Greece.

Like much of the West, the EU has denounced the Chinese Parliament’s decision to adopt national security legislation for the former British colony of Hong Kong despite an international outcry.

While European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned last month of ‘very negative consequences’ for Beijing, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell detailed lighter measures after a meeting of bloc foreign ministers in Brussels.

“We agreed today to develop a coordinated response from the European Union to show our support for Hong Kong’s autonomy and for civil society,” he said at a press conference after the meeting.

“This will include measures both at EU level and also measures falling within the national competences of the Member States in a coordinated approach,” said Borrell.

He said nothing specific had been decided but that EU foreign ministers had discussed Hong Kong’s extension to the EU ban on exports of “sensitive technology”.

Borrell referred to any equipment or software that could be used to suppress protests aimed at preserving the autonomy of Hong Kong granted by virtue of its transfer to China by Great Britain in 1997.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel supported a joint EU response but warned against breaking off dialogue with China.

“It is important that the EU member states try to find a common policy towards China and a common response,” she said at a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Tale. “(But) this is not a reason not to stay in dialogue with China. ”

Borrell said EU governments could also revise extradition agreements with Hong Kong authorities, revise travel advice, increase scholarships for Hong Kong students and offer more visas to Hong Kongers .

EU governments could announce national measures separately, but the bloc of 27 countries saw its response as a package to define and become reality in the coming days, he added.

Finland said it supports the idea of ​​suspending extradition treaties with Hong Kong because the new security law means detainees could be transferred to mainland China, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party in power.

Additional report by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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