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13th Apr 2024

EU and US join up against China on Taiwan

  • G7 foreign ministers met in British capital this week (Photo: Leo Hidalgo)

The EU and its leading powers voiced strident criticism of China at a G7 meeting in London on Wednesday (5 May), even as Hungary, once again, tried to gag Europe in Brussels.

"We remain seriously concerned about the situation in and around the East and South China Seas," the G7 communiqué said, alluding to China's expansionist territorial claims.

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"We underscore the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," it added, amid international concern China might be preparing to retake Taiwan by force in the coming years.

"We reiterate our strong opposition to any unilateral actions that could escalate tensions and undermine regional stability and the international rules-based order and express serious concerns about reports of militarisation, coercion, and intimidation in the region," the G7 also said.

The communiqué came out in the name of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the US, and the EU, after a two-day meeting of foreign ministers in the UK capital.

It marked the first time the EU had taken a firm stance alongside the US on the South China Sea and Taiwan situations.

The joint statement also took China to task on two other sensitive issues - its human-rights abuses against the Uighur Muslim minority and its anti-democratic crackdown in Hong Kong.

The Western powers accused Beijing of creating "a large-scale network of 'political re-education' camps", which practiced "forced labour" of Uighurs and "forced sterilisation" of Uighur women.

"We ... remain gravely concerned by China's decision fundamentally to erode democratic elements of the electoral system in Hong Kong," the G7 bloc added.

"We call on China ... to end the targeting of those who defend rights and freedoms," they said.

The strongly worded statement came amid already heightened tension between the EU and China.

Beijing recently blacklisted MEPs and EU officials in political retaliation against EU measures over Uighur abuse.

And the European Commission has frozen efforts to ratify a new China trade pact due to the sanctions dispute.

But China also has friends at the EU's high table.

And when EU states' ambassadors met in Brussels, also on Wednesday, to discuss draft conclusions for next week's EU foreign ministers' meeting, Beijing's best friend and investment-beneficiary - Hungary - blocked any tough talk on Hong Kong.

"There was no consensus, thanks to Hungary, on Hong-Kong conclusions," an EU diplomatic source told EUobserver.

The Hungarian veto was just the latest in a long line of its attempts to gag the EU on behalf of its third-country allies - China, Israel, and Russia.

But while the EU is meant to do foreign policy by unanimity, it has also shown increasing boldness in ignoring Budapest's spoiler tactics.

And just as the EU's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell spoke out in London despite the problem in Brussels, Finland, last year at the UN in New York, previously ignored a Hungarian veto to speak out on Israel in the name of the European Union.

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