China’s leaders ‘arrogant and aggressive’ over Hong Kong security law, EU politician says

*Beijing has moved ‘beyond being assertive’, says Reinhard Butikofer, chairman of European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with China *Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy ‘not just a unilateral gift from some Beijing communist leader [but] based on an agreement with the British’, he says

Reinhard Butikofer says Beijing is “squarely ignoring” its international treaty obligations by proposing a national security law for Hong Kong. Photo: AFP
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Beijing’s proposals for a national security law  for Hong Kong are “aggressive and arrogant”, the head of the European Parliament department that handles relations with China said on Tuesday, ahead of an upcoming meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers.

China had been “strongly underscoring an impression that people have been gathering during the development of the

Covid-19 crisis … that the leadership in Beijing is moving beyond being assertive, into being aggressive and arrogant”, said Reinhard Butikofer, chairman of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with the People’s Republic of China.

His comments add to the calls from Western nations for Beijing to face consequences for promulgating a national security law for the embattled city.

Almost a year after millions of people took to the streets of Hong Kong to protest against plans to introduce a now-shelved extradition bill, fresh disputes broke out on Sunday following Beijing’s proposal, which it says is designed to protect against secession, subversion and terrorist activities in the city.

Politicians from the

European Union

(EU), United States and elsewhere have spoken out against the planned legislation.

On Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel said the bloc was “

not naive about Chinese behaviour at the international level

”, while a day earlier, the EU’s foreign policy chief Joseph Borell called for “a more robust strategy” to deal with a “more powerful and assertive” China.

US President Donald Trump

said on Tuesday that America was working on a “strong response” to the proposed law.

Butikofer said that foreign ministers from the 27 EU states were set to discuss Hong Kong and other issues related to China at their regular meeting on Friday.

“I don’t dare predict what they will say, but I would assume that member states’ governments have taken their time to analyse what is happening in Hong Kong,” he said.

Beijing was “squarely ignoring” its international treaty obligations by proposing the law, he said.

“The high level of autonomy of Hong Kong was not just a unilateral gift from some Beijing communist leader [but] based on an agreement with the British, and this is a continuous legal obligation of the Chinese government,” Butikofer said, referring to the

Sino-British Joint Declaration

, which was signed in 1984 and sets out the terms of the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.

“Ignoring the joint declaration gives pause to a lot of people who would immediately ask the question: if they decide which treaties, international agreements and obligations they are going to ignore, where will we end up with the agreements that we are striking with them?” he said.

Beijing hit back at its critics on Monday, saying they had no right to invoke the declaration to condemn its activities in Hong Kong.

“With Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, the UK’s rights and obligations stipulated in the Sino-British Joint Declaration were all completed,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Butikofer also said he doubted if the EU and China would be able to finalise their negotiations of a comprehensive agreement on investment – ongoing since 2013 – despite plans for

Chinese President Xi Jinping

to meet his EU counterparts at a meeting in the German city of Leipzig in September.

“There is relatively low-level optimism for results [at Leipzig], as far as I can see,” he said, adding that hopes of reaching a deal had “clearly evaporated”.

“Nobody believes [an agreement] is going to happen in time for the Leipzig summit,” he said. “The differences are still very big. We can try to paint them over, but I don’t see any hope for substantive deliverables by then.”

Annalena Baerbock, the joint leader of Germany’s Green party, called for the Leipzig meeting to be scrapped if Beijing did not withdraw the Hong Kong national security law.

While negotiations about the investment deal gathered momentum last year, they slowed in 2020 – partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced the postponement of a planned leaders’ summit in April – though senior

officials have remained in contact

.

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