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20th Jul 2018

China asks EU to lift arms embargo

  • Beijing - the EU arms ban was put in place after China's communist regime cracked down on protests in 1989 (Photo: Peter Morgan)

China has called on the EU to lift its 17-year-old ban on arms sales to Beijing to improve the relations between the two.

The call comes ahead of an EU-Asia meeting taking place in Helsinki this weekend.

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"We hope the European Union will honour its commitment and make the political decision to lift the ban at an early date, because that will be conducive to the further growth of Chinese-EU relations," Chinese Foreign ministry official Li Ruiyu said at a news conference on Wednesday (6 September) according to the Associated Press.

Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao will attend the ASEM meeting in Finland together with the country's foreign minister Li Zhaoxing. The meeting is an annual event and has gathered European and Asian leaders for the past decade.

The arms ban was put in place by the EU following the violent crackdown by China's communist regime against pro-democracy protestors on Beijing's Tiananmen square in 1989, which left more than 2,000 civilians dead, according to numbers from the Chinese Red Cross.

Just over a year ago French president Jacques Chirac and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroder advocated ending the embargo.

But disagreement within the 25 member union, together with fierce opposition from the US, Japan and human rights groups as well as China's enactment of a law threatening military action if Taiwan declared independence, made a decision to lift the ban politically impossible last year.

Washington argued that European arms and technology sold to Beijing could end up threatening US forces in Asia.

Earlier this year, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said China had to make progress on human rights before the EU would lift the ban.

A report - to be voted on by MEPs today (6 September) - also strongly recommends that the EU arms embargo against China remain intact until greater progress is made on human rights issues in the country.

Meanwhile, Michael Ying-Mao Kau, head of Taiwan's Brussels office said "We would like to see the arms embargo remain intact.

"The reason is very simple - the rationale for imposing it was China's human rights violations and we don't really see in recent years any major improvement in that area," Mr Kau told Reuters news agency.

After EU enlargement in 2004, the European bloc overtook Japan and became China's largest trading partner, with total trade up 29 percent in the first half of this year, while China is the EU's second largest trading partner after the US.

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