China criticized the European Union’s “confrontational approach” on Friday after MEPs voted to block a landmark investment deal on Beijing’s tit-for-tat sanctions against EU lawmakers.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing sanctions were a “necessary and justified response” to previous EU measures against Chinese officials on human rights grounds in Xinjiang .
To the surprise of many, the European Union and China approved a major investment pact at the end of December, ending seven years of laborious negotiations thanks to a final push from Germany.
But the European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority on Thursday to refuse any consideration of the EU-China investment deal as long as Chinese sanctions against MEPs and academics are in place.
Beijing says the sanctions were imposed to “safeguard (China’s) interests.”
“China has imposed sanctions on relevant EU institutions and personnel who have spread lies and false information related to Xinjiang and which have severely damaged China’s sovereignty and interests,” Zhao said during the speech. a regular press briefing.
He urged the EU to “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, abandon its confrontational approach” and put EU-China relations “back on the right track of dialogue and cooperation”.
Defenders of the pact see it as an essential opening up of the Chinese economy to European companies, but it should face a difficult ratification process between the 27 member states and the European Parliament.
– Sanctions tit-for-tat –
The investment deal aims to open up the Chinese market and eliminate discriminatory laws and practices that prevent European companies from competing on an equal footing, according to the European Commission.
EU foreign direct investment in China since 2000 – excluding Britain – has amounted to $ 181 billion. China’s corresponding sum is $ 138 billion.
Ties between the EU and China suddenly deteriorated in March after an angry sanctions swap over human rights concerns.
The EU has sanctioned four Chinese officials for alleged human rights violations in the Xinjiang region, in China’s far northwest.
Beijing has responded by imposing its own sanctions against European politicians, academics and research groups.
Human rights groups and academics claim that Beijing has rounded up around a million Uyghurs and other minorities in Xinjiang in internment camps, which Beijing says is to eradicate the Islamic extremism after a wave of inter-ethnic violence and attacks.
Adding to the pressure, some 50 human rights defenders from China who have gone into exile in Europe – including artist Ai Weiwei – on Thursday asked the EU to suspend extradition treaties with Beijing.
In an open letter to EU leaders, they called on Brussels to freeze or revoke arrangements made by 10 EU member states, including France, Belgium and Spain.
These bilateral treaties “present not only a potential threat to our freedom of movement within the European Union, but also to our freedom of association and expression, because Beijing can request our extradition for the statements we make in Europe. “, did he declare.
© 2021 AFP