Hong Kong and China: Will the European Union Support Human Rights?

23 / 06 / 2020

Contradictory signals from Brussels. An excellent pro-Hong-Kong resolution has been passed, but the office of the Special Envoy for religious freedom in the world has been canceled

by Marco Respinti

Mr. Ján Figel’: his mandate as Special Envoy for religious freedom has not been renewed
Mr. Ján Figel’: his mandate as Special Envoy for religious freedom has not been renewed (Jan AinaliCC BY-SA 3.0)

Probably, the Chinese government thinks that Western indifference to religious liberty, human rights, and the fate of Hong Kong is the best ally of its harsh repression. Of course, Beijing has used the iron fist in Hong Kong at every new outburst of protests, and will do so again when needed. But the CCP can also believe time works in its favor.

At the end of 2019, thousands in Honk Kong revolted again the extradition bill. The Beijing-inspired government of Chief Executive Ms. Carrie Lam ordered the police to take immediate action. After weeks of serious confrontation with the protesters, Ms. Lam withdrew the bill. All calmed down, and the world quickly forgot the heroic and moving images of protesters it had previously seen on TV. The CCP and its allies in Hong Kong were quick to freeze the situation, leaving the Special Administrative Region in a limbo.

The next step came on May 28 this year, when China imposed a new security law on Honk Kong. Predictably, new protests exploded in the streets, followed, on June 4, by an impressive peaceful demonstration on the anniversary of Tiananmen, which defied an official prohibition. Once again, the attention of the world is fading rapidly, but the new law is still there, and every day China comes closer to ending the special status of Hong Kong.

In times of false calm, supporting Hong Kong is even more important than during the hot days of the protests. It is part of the good news that the European Parliament on June 19 passed, with 565 votes to 34 (and 62 abstentions), a resolution to bring China before the International Court of Justice over its decision to impose a new national security law on the Special Administrative Region, which is in breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The language used by the MEPs is strong and clear. It calls for the immediate withdrawal of the security law, the release of the democratic activists and protesters who have been unjustly and unjustifiably arrested, and the appointment of a United Nation Special Envoy to address and solve the whole Hong Kong question.

The bad news for the European attitude about human rights and religious liberty in general is that the European Commission (EC) has decided to completely cancel the office of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union. It was instituted by the EC itself in May 2006, and Slovak politician and former European Commissioner, Mr. Ján Figel’, was appointed. Although submitted to political limitations, he did an excellent job until December 2019, when his mandate was over. Now, despite several petitions by human right advocates and NGOs, not only Mr. Figel’ was not reappointed to that precious position, but the position itself has been eliminated. Should people of the world who suffer persecution for their religious faith conclude that the European Union does not care for their sorrows and fundamental human rights? Or should they think that for the EU economy and business are more important than the defense of human rights?

MEPs are to be congratulated for their brave vote on Hong Kong. Now, they should ask the Commission to appoint a new Special Envoy for religious liberty, and to guarantee the independence of this office.

Source: Bitter Winter

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