At a meeting of the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, China’s political crackdown under the National Security Law in Hong Kong was high on the agenda but the EU stopped short of rolling out major sanctions on the city’s officials for the continued repression of opposition figures.
The meeting comprised of the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers and senior EU officials, with Brussels’ top diplomat, Josep Borrell, on Monday referring a situation in the city that “keeps deteriorating”.
At a press conference after the meeting, Borrell confirmed the agreement on a “two-step process” that will be added to the previous response package to the national security law imposed on Hong Kong last summer, which was rolled out last July.
“The first step involves measures designed to increase support to civil society, including coordination with like-minded parties and outreach to relevant authorities,” Borrell said.
Further steps will be taken in case of “further deterioration in the situation, such as aggressive reform of the electoral process in Hong Kong or further erosion of the independence of the judiciary”, Borrell added.
Borrell also welcomed the involvement of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who joined the last two hours of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), earmarking China and Russia as potential areas for collaboration.
“We discussed opportunities and challenges in relations with China and Russia, which are the two poles with respect, we have to face the most important challenges,” Borrell said.
Before the meeting, senior EU officials had warned about Hong Kong’s “deteriorating” situation, in reference to “internal freedom”, while a non-paper – an unofficial diplomatic note – had been circulated among member states proposing new measures in response to the situation.