Thursday

1st Dec 2022

German minister takes lone stand on China rights abuse

  • German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock (Photo: Stephan Roehl)
Listen to article

Germany's foreign minister will boycott Beijing's Winter Olympics on human-rights grounds, but the EU has a "cognitive split" on China, it said.

Neither the EU nor Germany have decided whether to formally snub China's Olympic Games in February, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock told the DPA news agency on Wednesday (29 December).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"But I definitely won't be going to the Olympics at this time," she added, in a personal decision.

The European Parliament was also right to be pushing for an EU import ban on goods produced using forced labour, she added, alluding to China's well-documented exploitation of its Uighur minority.

"The European Parliament's proposal to ban the import of goods produced with forced labor is, in my view, exactly right," Baerbock said.

Her semi-private Olympics boycott comes after Lithuania's foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, whose country is facing undeclared Chinese trade sanctions over its friendly ties with Taiwan, also said earlier this month: "I'm not going".

And the EU foreign service, also on Thursday, criticised China for its ongoing assault on Hong Kong's democracy in violation of international treaties.

"The [Chinese] raid against Stand News [an independent media] ... and the arrest of seven people mark a further deterioration in press freedom in Hong Kong," an EU spokesman tweeted.

But for their part, other German politicians have indicated they want to mend ties with Beijing instead of defending EU values.

Germany's new chancellor, Olaf Scholz, did not mention human rights in his first phone call with Chinese president Xi Jinping earlier this week.

Scholz also said he hoped a new China-EU Investment Agreement "will take effect as soon as possible", even though the EU Parliament has blocked this because China blacklisted dozens of MEPs and EU officials in a sanctions dispute.

"I'm very much confident in the value-based realism, which is represented by Olaf Scholz and the German government," former German defence minister Rudolf Scharping also said in an interview with a Chinese state mouthpiece, the CGTN TV broadcaster.

For their part, France and Austria have indicated they would not support any EU-level Olympics boycott.

And Hungary, which has in the past vetoed critical EU statements on China, said the same.

"We maintain an open attitude toward China, focusing on issues that bring us together, instead of those pulling us apart," Hungary's ambassador to China, Máté Pesti, told another state mouthpiece, the Global Times, also this week.

"The only sentence that we should echo during the upcoming Olympic Games is "Team Hungary, Jiayou [Go for it]!", he added.

When it comes to Lithuania, the EU Commission has also indicated it does not want to get involved despite Vilnius' calls for European solidarity.

"So far, there has been no consistent, clear Chinese action. Most of the pressure measures are 'under the table', and it is very difficult to record them and say that the state has contributed to them," Lithuania's EU commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said on Wednesday.

"Isn't over a thousand containers sitting in ports evidence? Isn't the decrease in flows evidence? Isn't the non-fulfilment of contracts evidence? All of this has been documented, and companies have sent it to our Foreign Ministry," Rimas Varkulevičius, the president of the Lithuanian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, and Crafts, retorted.

And for China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, all that added up to what he called an EU "cognitive split" on Chinese policy.

"There seems to be some kind of 'cognitive split' in Europe's China policy. It is hard to imagine that, on the one hand, it has established a comprehensive strategic partnership with China and on the other hand, it has positioned China as an institutional opponent," Wang told state media on Thursday.

"We urge some external forces to respect the facts, follow the global trend, stop undermining the rule of law in [Hong Kong] ... stop colluding with those suspected of endangering China's national security, and stop interfering in China's internal affairs including Hong Kong affairs under any pretext," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson also said.

EU unveils €300bn reply China's infrastructure programme

The EU proposal does not mention China directly, but it offers to counter Beijing's almost €3 trillion Belt and Road programme - which critics say has pushed some countries to unsustainable level of indebtedness.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

News in Brief

  1. 'Pro-Kremlin group' in EU Parliament cyberattack
  2. Ukraine will decide on any peace talks, Borrell says
  3. Germany blocks sale of chip factory to Chinese subsidiary
  4. Strikes and protests over cost-of-living grip Greece, Belgium
  5. Liberal MEPs want Musk quizzed in parliament
  6. Bulgarian policeman shot dead at Turkish border
  7. 89 people allowed to disembark in Italy, aid group says
  8. UN chief tells world: Cooperate on climate or perish

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  2. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  3. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs
  4. Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?
  5. Why the EU asbestos directive revision ... needs revising
  6. Nato renews membership vow to Ukraine
  7. Catalan spyware victims demand justice
  8. Is the overwhelming critique of Qatar hypocritical?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us