EU urges Hong Kong to release 53 detained activists and ex-lawmakers


The European Union on Wednesday called for the immediate release of the 53 pro-democracy activists and former members of its legislative council arrested earlier in the day after being accused of violating the city’s national security law.

The mass arrests were the largest crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement since the law was imposed by China last June to quell dissent in the semi-autonomous territory.

EU spokesman Peter Stano told a press conference that the arrests send the “signal that political pluralism is no longer tolerated in Hong Kong”.

He said the arrests under China’s controversial national security law, which punishes subversion and separatism is being used “to crush dissent and stifle the exercise of human rights and political freedoms.”

The spokesman did not exclude the possibility of sanctions against China, saying that EU authorities and member nations are currently “thinking about the best measures to take to react.”

Stano said the issue could be discussed during a meeting of the bloc’s foreign affairs ministers later this month but insisted unanimity among EU nations will be required to green light sanctions.

The crackdown in Hong Kong took place only days after the European Union sealed a business investment deal with China despite concerns about the human rights situation in the country.

EU Commission chief spokesman Eric Mamer separated the two topics, saying the EU is working with China “in a different way, in different areas.”

China is the bloc’s second-biggest trading partner behind the United States, and the EU is China’s biggest trading partner. China and Europe trade on average over 1 billion euros (US$1.2 billion) a day.

“Of course we have a separate line of dialogue with China on the rule of law and democracy,” Mamer said. (Source: Mainichi Japan)