The EU discussed issues with China and published statements criticising the detention of activists. Political repression in China continues, but the CCP has signalled some changes on some specific issues of concern for the EU.
Rule of law and human rights are among the core values that the EU aims to promote in the world but one of the most sensitive issues in relations with China. In 2013, rule of law problems and human rights violations continued in China, despite announcements by China’s new leaders that fighting corruption and strengthening the rule of law are among their political priorities. Europeans welcomed such announcements but stressed the need to implement necessary measures to achieve these priorities. They also criticised China for detaining civil rights activists who advocated the rule of law, transparency, social justice, and other concerns of Chinese society, and called on China to respect the right to freedom of expression. One area where China is signalling change is the death penalty: the CCP has announced the number of capital offences would be gradually diminished. Oddly, however, the EU seems not have taken notice.
Another round of the EU–China dialogue took place in June, in Guiyang, but it was the usual exchange of views without tangible progress on individual problems the EU had previously raised. In September, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, visited China, including ethnic Tibetan areas in Qinghai Province and the Tibet region. During his visit, he presented a long list of the EU’s issues of concern: restrictions on the freedom of expression; prosecution, arrest, and detention of people for peacefully expressing their views; the human rights situation in minority areas, including Tibet and Xinjiang; freedom of religion and belief; and the death penalty. Some member states such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Slovenia, and the UK raised human rights at the UNHRC in October and in meetings with Chinese officials, but few openly criticised China. It is therefore difficult to speak of any “leaders” in this area of European foreign policy. However, the UK, traditionally a supporter of human rights in China and which increasingly focused on promoting exports and inward investment in 2013, stands out as a “slacker”.