The French newspaper Le Monde published an editorial on Wednesday, criticizing the European Union’s weak response after Beijing passed its rubber-stamp Hong Kong National Security Law. The newspaper cited Washington’s elimination of Hong Kong’s special status and the ban on arms exports, Canada’s suspension of its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and the UK’s offering of citizenship to up to 3 million Hong Kong residents. However, the 27 EU countries have fallen into the trap of interdependent economic relations with China.
Le Monde pointed the finger at Germany, which has served as the EU’s rotating presidency since July 1. Germany finds it difficult to look beyond the economic cooperation that has been carefully woven with China for 15 years, which translates to an annual trade of over 200 billion euros between Berlin and Beijing. The Hong Kong people are disappointed with Merkel.
The newspaper also criticized France, which fears to damage relations with Beijing at the moment when it must fully reopen the economy after coming out of the epidemic. While not giving any details, on Wednesday evening, French Foreign Minister Le Drian assured the Senate that France would take countermeasures against the Hong Kong National Security Law.
Le Monde believes that since the emergence of the epidemic, Beijing has shown its true face. Xi Jinping’s China has transformed and become more aggressive in all respects without hesitation, including the usage of provocative rhetoric to support its policies and disparage the EU model. It has proven that Beijing has become the EU’s institutional opponent. The newspaper pointed out that China’s brutal approach in Hong Kong also poses a severe test for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. It proposes that the EU could at least suggest to the Hong Kong people that they would be willing to provide asylum to whoever wishes to escape from the authoritarian regime. If the EU wants to become a global actor and be respected, there is no other choice but to be tough when facing China.
Inside Germany, there has been much criticism of Merkel’s weak performance on the Hong Kong issue. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) criticized Merkel’s attitude towards China. Nils Schmid, a spokesman for the SPD’s parliamentary group, reminded Merkel that she should bid farewell to her outdated perception of China and face reality. Christian Lindner, leader of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), believes that Germany cannot betray its values.
Source: Radio France International, July 8, 2020