This page was archived on October 2020.


Human rights and governance

47 - Rule of law and human rights in China and Asia

Grade: C
Unity 2/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 3/10
Total 8/20
Scorecard 2012: D+ (5/20)
Scorecard 2013: C (8/20)
Scorecard 2014: C (8/20)

While Europeans were united in criticising human rights abuses in Thailand, Myanmar, North Korea, and Pakistan, they were reluctant to discuss human rights with China.

The year 2014 was another disappointing period for the EU on human rights policy towards China. The EU issued a number of statements on freedom of speech and human rights in general, on particular cases such as those of Ilham Tohti and Xu Zhiyong as well as on the democracy protests in Hong Kong. But, fearing retaliation or a deterioration of their bilateral relations with China, most member states were reluctant to support the EU. Member states say they “mentioned” and “raised” human rights in multilateral and bilateral meetings, but direct criticism was rare. Some member states, such as France, went as far as banning certain demonstrations during visits by Chinese officials. Germany, Ireland, and Sweden were the most outspoken on human rights, and Malta was among the least.

However, Europeans took a different approach on human rights elsewhere in Asia. The EU and member states were united in policy towards Myanmar, North Korea, and Pakistan, as well as in response to the coup in Thailand. The EU and member states worked closely with Japan on North Korea and increased both official contacts and people-to-people exchanges with North Korea. But progress might be halted following the submission by the EU and Japan of a UN resolution calling for a probe on North Korea for crimes against humanity, which passed in November. The EU and member states were also united on Myanmar. The EU scaled back its sanctions, the EU and Myanmar held their first bilateral Human Rights Dialogue in May, and the EU increased its development aid programme to Myanmar. Following the military coup in Thailand in May, the EU expressed concern and declared it was reviewing its relations with Thailand. The conclusion of cooperation agreements with Thailand was suspended, as were official visits between Thailand and the EU. But although Europeans were united, it is not clear that they had much impact.