Brussels [Belgium], April 29 (ANI): Dozens of Brussels lawmakers have slammed China's efforts to "gag" European critics through sanctions and pledged to block the EU-China investment deal while the measures remain in place.
According to South China Morning Post, at a debate in the European Parliament on Wednesday, more than 30 members took the floor to denounce the sanctions imposed by Beijing last month, moves that targeted a host of elected officials, ambassadors, academics and think tanks.
They warned China that the investment deal was "on ice", and also took aim at European Commission officials who they claimed had prioritised commercial ties with the world's second-largest economy at the expense of human rights.
"If we want to show once and for all that the EU is not just a supermarket but rather has principles ... we have to come up with some tangible action, and that means we need to reject the investment agreement," Emmanuel Maurel, a left-wing French MEP, said in a statement that seemed aimed as much at EU officials as Chinese ones.
At the beginning of the debate, the EU's chief diplomat, Josep Borrell, said he stood in "full solidarity" with sanctioned MEPs, but reiterated the need to engage with China on multiple fronts, according to South China Morning Post.
MEPs repeatedly took affront at China's efforts to shut down criticism of its human rights record.
"If pro-democracy rights in Hong Kong or Taiwan cannot be discussed in this parliament then nothing can be discussed in this parliament," said Maria Arena, a socialist MEP from Belgium.
Beijing sanctioned the parliament's entire Subcommittee on Human Rights, a move that restricts access to some witnesses who fear that they may also face sanctioning by China, said vice-chair Hannah Neumann.
"This is a regime arbitrarily shooting a shotgun targeting our freedom of expression, our freedom of research and our rights as members of parliament," said Neumann, a German.
"So when it comes to the agreement or investment that China wants us to ratify, we may be able to discuss the economic dimension at length, but we are kept by China from discussing its effects on human rights, and I am not willing to let a foreign country dictate to me how to do my job," she added.
The debate happened as EU-China tensions continued to escalate.
After the EU joined with the UK, Canada and the United States in sanctioning mid-ranking Chinese officials connected with alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, Beijing bit back with sweeping retaliatory sanctions on European officials and organisations.
In March, a group of MEPs sent a letter to Borrell asking for sanctions on Hong Kong's leaders, who they said have "continuously violated fundamental freedoms guaranteed under both the Basic Law and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".
Last week, the European Union has slammed China's activities in the South China Sea, accusing it of threatening regional peace and stability. On Saturday, the bloc issued a statement saying it strongly opposed "unilateral actions that could undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order".
Two weeks ago, China's closest ally in the EU, Hungary, blocked new measures that would have seen the suspension of remaining extradition treaties with the mainland, as well as resolutions to create paths to residency in the EU for "highly qualified" Hongkongers and students, according to South China Morning Post. (ANI)