The European Union has called for immediate release of 53 former lawmakers and democracy activists arrested in Hong Kong for violating new security laws.
The massive arrests, including former lawmakers, have been the biggest crackdown on Hong Kong’s democracy movement since China enacted legislation last June to quell opposition to anti-autonomous regions.
EU spokesman Peter Stano said at a press conference that the arrest “is signaling that political pluralism is no longer tolerated in Hong Kong.” He added that security laws are being used “to crush opposition and suppress the exercise of human rights and political freedom.”
Without excluding possible sanctions against China, Stano said EU authorities and member states are now “contemplating the best steps to respond.”
Stano argued that the issue could be discussed at a meeting of Bloc’s foreign ministers later this month, but it would require unanimous agreement between EU countries to approve the sanctions.
The crackdown in Hong Kong took place days after the European Union signed a business investment agreement with China, despite concerns over China’s human rights situation. The EU Commission’s spokesman Eric Mamer separated the two topics by saying that the EU is working with China “in different ways, in different fields”.
China is the second largest trading partner after the United States, and the EU is China’s largest trading partner. China and Europe trade on average over 1 billion euros (1.2 billion dollars) per day.
“Of course, we have separate dialogues with China about the rule of law and democracy,” Mamer said.