A vote from members of the European Union (EU) to freeze any further considerations into a massive investment deal with China has resulted in an overwhelming response of 599 votes in favour of freezing the deal and only 30 votes against. The vote to freeze the China Comprehensive Agreement Investment deal comes in response to China’s appalling treatment of their Uyghur Muslim population and concerns surrounding the rights of people in the labour force. The European Parliament has published a statement expressing that it “considers these sanctions to be part of an effort to police speech and discussions about China worldwide, and to determine what kind of speech and discussions would be allowed globally, as part of the totalitarian threat.”
Human rights activists and members of the United Nations have condemned China for the numerous human rights abuses experienced by millions of Uyghur Muslims who have been detained in camps in the Xinjiang province. Human Rights Watch reported that the Chinese government is “responsible for widespread and systematic policies of mass detention, torture, and cultural persecution.” These human rights abuses in which the EU deems to be “crimes against humanity” have resulted in the first sanctions against China in almost 30 years.
However, China consistently denies all accusations and has retaliated by placing sanctions on 10 EU politicians who have spoken out about Chinese human rights abuses. The Chinese government has reacted to the EU’s decision to halt the deal, stating that Brussels should “immediately stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and abandon its confrontational approach.” Beijing believes these sanctions are unreasonable and this has resulted in the counter-sanctions on members of the EU, further preventing any dialogue and ratification of the investment deal.
German EU lawmaker Reinhard Butikofer, who was targeted by Beijing officials, has stated that China has miscalculated with these sanctions, and consequently, “the comprehensive agreement on investment has been put into the freezer.” The investment deal which now remains up in the air was the result of negotiations that have lasted almost seven years. The main goals of the deal were to increase access to markets and regulate the fair treatment of EU investors and companies doing business in China.
The EU remains hopeful that China will ratify international conventions that protect human rights in the labour force, such as the International Labour Organization and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Human Rights Watch has stated that “coordinated international action is necessary to sanction those responsible for human rights abuses,” as well as pressing governments to be more accountable in protecting and upholding human rights. However, sanctioning is not an effective form of resolving problems, and cooperation is needed between governments to address concerns over labour rights and human rights. When talks are resumed the EU parliament has stated that it will take human rights in China into account.
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