Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU-China relations

Delivered in Plenary - 6th September 2006

Mr President

China is the EUís second-largest trading partner after the USA and, in economic terms, cannot be ignored. Nevertheless, it remains a one-party communist dictatorship, sharing little in the way of common values with the EU, unlike India, which shares the Westís respect for democracy and human rights.

One rare example of common interest is in the fight against international Islamist terrorism, as China has problems with its own Uighur Muslim minorities. Regrettably, however, in its quest for international support and, in particular, energy security, China has recently courted terrorist-sponsoring Iran, and along with Russia refused to impose UN sanctions for Iranís continuing uranium enrichment programme. Similarly, on the principle of non-interference, China has good relations with maverick regimes ranging from Venezuela to Zimbabwe.

EU criticism of human rights in China is a good thing in itself. China has an appalling record of inappropriate and wide-scale use of the death penalty, persecution of religious and other minorities, such as unregistered Christian groups, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, etc. However, its inhumane treatment of forced labour prisoners, including allegations of organ trafficking from those executed, poor standards of animal welfare and ignoring of ILO standards, also mean that it has an unfair competitive cost advantage in its exports, which will give rise to legitimate calls for more protectionism, when we should all be striving instead for global free trade.

China is also obstructing full democracy in Hong Kong, dear to my heart as a British MEP. In its recent anti-secession laws, China has also shown a belligerent attitude towards democratic Taiwan, which serves as a model to completely rebut those who say that China is too big and Chinese people too culturally different from the West to have democracy and high standards of human rights. Therefore, we must maintain the arms embargo imposed by the EU.

We cannot ignore China with its annual 11% growth rates, but we must also not shy away from criticising this very great country when it is appropriate.