The European Parliament on Thursday halted progress on a landmark trade deal with China, citing Beijing’s “totalitarian threat” over its human rights record and sanctions against Europeans who criticized the government Chinese.
By an overwhelming majority, members of parliament passed a resolution refusing to ratify the so-called comprehensive investment deal until China lifts sanctions on Beijing’s main European critics. Members of parliament have also warned that they may refuse to approve the deal due to China’s treatment of Muslim minorities and its suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.
“The human rights situation in China is at its worst since the Tiananmen Square massacre,” says the resolution, accusing China of detaining more than a million people, mostly Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province. , an accusation that the Chinese government has denied.
the punishments against members of the European Parliament who have criticized Beijing, as well as several academics and research organizations, “constitute an attack on the European Union and its Parliament as a whole, the heart of democracy and European values, as well as a attack on freedom of research, ”says the resolution.
The vote was the latest setback in relations between the European Union and China just a few months after the signing of a pact intended to facilitate the conduct of business for their companies in each other’s territory. The agreement must be approved by Parliament.
The investment deal was a priority for German Chancellor Angela Merkel because of China’s importance to German automakers and other companies. Among other things, the deal would allow European companies to hold majority stakes in their Chinese subsidiaries, rather than forcing them to operate through joint ventures with Chinese partners and share trade secrets.
But relations have deteriorated since March, when the European Commission published sanctions against four Communist Party officials after accusing them of being responsible for human rights violations.
China fought back with sanctions against members of the European Parliament, including Reinhard Bütikofer, member of Germany’s Green faction and prominent Beijing critic. They are not allowed to travel to China or do business with people in China.
The investment deal was already in trouble. Valdis Dombrovskis, EU trade commissioner, said earlier in May that work to finalize the pact had been delayed due to China’s repressive policies. The European Commission, the administrative arm of the European Union, also took action this month to crack down on Chinese companies that receive government subsidies, giving them an unfair competitive advantage.
The resolution was adopted Thursday by a vote of 599 for and 30 against, with 58 abstentions. The no came from a handful of far-right and far-left MPs.