Europe divided, China gratified as Greece blocks E.U. statement over human rights

BEIJING — Money really can buy love, and in China’s case, it appears to be helping to keep the European Union divided and ineffective.

Greece, a significant recipient of Chinese investment, blocked an E.U. statement at the United Nations last week criticizing China’s human rights record — despite rising concerns among many member states about an ever-intensifying crackdown on civil society, including lawyers and activists.

A coalition of human rights groups said it was the first time in a decade that the European Union has not made its collective voice heard during the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting.

But it was only the latest in missed opportunities this year.

In March, Hungary — another big destination for Chinese investment — prevented the European Union from adding its name to a joint letter expressing concern about reports of lawyers in China being tortured in detention, diplomats said.

At a summit in Brussels on June 1-2, E.U. Council and Commission presidents did not forcefully condemn China’s deteriorating human rights situation in public, nor call for the release of political prisoners, including E.U. citizens, according to rights groups.

The European Union also did not mark the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4.

“On three occasions over three weeks the EU demonstrated no intention, compassion, or strategic vision to stem the tide of human rights abuses in China,” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said in a joint statement with six other groups.

The European Union has given no official explanation for its apparent retreat on human rights.

Reuters reported that a Greek foreign ministry official had described the proposed statement as “unconstructive criticism of China” and said separate E.U. talks with China outside the United Nations were a better avenue for discussions.


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