China is destroying its own international commitment to “one country, two systems”

China's flag
China's flag, Shutterstock

MEP Andrius Kubilius, discussing in the plenary session of the European Parliament the debate on China’s actions in destroying Hong Kong’s democracy, stressed that China is destroying its own international “one country, two systems” commitments.

“Yesterday and today, the European Parliament addressed China’s unacceptable behaviour. This time, a special European Parliament resolution was debated to address the fundamental violations of human rights and freedoms in Hong Kong,” said the MEP, “It is clear that the situation in Hong Kong is deteriorating very rapidly and tragically. I will not name all the individual facts that the resolution deals with. Still, the resolution, both in its content and in its specific wording, states the obvious fact: China is breaking, in the most flagrant manner, its own commitments to the international community, under the famous formula of “one country, two systems”, that Hong Kong’s democracy, which has been built up during the long years of British rule, will continue to be protected by the Chinese Government.

This is the Chinese Government’s commitment to the international community and to the British Government when the British handed over Hong Kong to Beijing in 1997. This principle meant that despite Hong Kong becoming part of the whole of China, ruled by authoritarian communist Beijing, Hong Kong’s democratic system of governance would retain its autonomy, with democratic elections, freedom of speech and the independence of the legal system. From 1997 to 2019, the Beijing authorities had honoured this commitment, according to a report by the offices of MEPs Kubilius, Juknevičienė and Mažylis.

According to Mr Kubilius, Hong Kong’s democratic self-government has been severely eroded since 2019.

“It is precisely this change in the behaviour of the Chinese authorities, their cynical refusal to honour the international commitments they have made, and the persecution of the Uighurs and Tibetans, that is leading to an increasingly critical attitude towards relations with China, which has recently been expressed more and more loudly, not only in the United States Congress but also in the European Parliament. This change in the behaviour of the Chinese authorities is also causing increasing concern about the future of Taiwan’s democracy and sovereignty. Because no one can believe the promises, China has made about Taiwan anymore either. This is why the attention on Taiwan in the West is growing very fast: the change in Chinese behaviour is the main reason for this,” the MEP is quoted as saying in the press release.

According to Mr Kubilius, although the resolution is aimed at Hong Kong, Lithuania’s name came up very often in the Parliament’s debates. This is because China’s economic pressure on Lithuania is seen as an encroachment on the fundamental principles of the European Union’s Single Market’s. Therefore, the European Parliament supports Lithuania and clarifies that the European Union does not have the right to continue to tolerate China’s aggressive pressure on Lithuania or any other Member State of the Community, nor on the European Union as a whole.

“China’s attempts to use the weight of its large market to squeeze a commitment from individual EU countries or the wider democratic world not to criticise China’s unacceptable behaviour or to develop cooperation with Taiwan are coming under increasingly harsh criticism. If China does not change its behaviour, Sino-Western relations could become extremely antagonistic towards the end of this decade, with significant repercussions for economic relations. This should be borne in mind when projecting the longer-term future, including for Lithuanian business,” said Mr Kubilius.

The resolution on China’s unacceptable behaviour in Hong Kong also reiterates China’s pressure on Lithuania: “China is using aggressive rhetoric and, without explanation and without announcement, has started to impose a de facto ban, which prevents the entry of Lithuanian-made goods into the Chinese market. These actions and practices, which have no basis in law, violate not only all international and World Trade Organisation trade rules but also have a direct impact on the core principles of the EU’s single market.”

With this resolution, the EP “condemns China’s coercion and intimidation of Lithuania; welcomes the recent statements of solidarity with Lithuania to counter China’s coercive actions; urges the EU to defend the fundamental principles of the Single Market against China’s intimidation.”

The Parliament calls on EU institutions: the Commission, the Council and the Member States to work with international partners to help preserve democracy in Taiwan, especially in the light of the recent developments by the Chinese Government on the relationship between Lithuania and Taiwan, and the destruction of freedoms in Hong Kong as a result of China’s policy changes to move away from the ‘one country, two systems approach.

MEP Andrius Kubilius, discussing the debate in Parliament’s plenary session on China’s actions in destroying Hong Kong’s democracy, stressed that China itself is destroying its own international commitment to “one country, two systems”.

EPP Lithuanian office
EPP Lithuanian Office
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