China’s Threat to Free Speech in Europe

China’s Threat to Free Speech in Europe. By Soeren Kern.

On March 22, the European Union and the United Kingdom announced that they had imposed sanctions on four Chinese officials accused of responsibility for abuses against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, a remote autonomous region in northwestern China.

Human rights experts say at least one million Muslims are being detained in up to 380 internment camps, where they are subject to torture, mass rapes, forced labor and sterilizations. After first denying the existence of the camps, China now says that they provide vocational education and training.

The Chinese government responded to the EU sanctions within minutes by announcing its own sanctions on 14 European individuals and entities. The individuals and their families are prohibited from entering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao. They and companies and institutions associated with them are also restricted from doing business with China. …

China contends that its sanctions are tit for tat — morally equivalent retaliation — in response to those imposed by Western countries. This is false. The European sanctions are for crimes against humanity, whereas the Chinese sanctions seek to silence European critics of the Chinese Communist Party.

The current standoff is, in essence, about the future of free speech in Europe. If notoriously feckless European officials fail to stand firm in the face of mounting Chinese pressure, Europeans who dare publicly to criticize the CCP in the future can expect to pay an increasingly high personal cost for doing so. …

The EU sanctions, the first such punitive measure against China since an EU arms embargo was imposed in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy crackdown, appear to indicate that both the EU and the UK plan to follow the United States and pursue a harder line against human rights abuses by the Chinese government. …

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson invited several of the MPs hit by Chinese sanctions to Downing Street. … Johnson referred to the parliamentarians as “warriors in the fight for free speech” who have his “full-throated support” and expressed bafflement at Beijing’s “ridiculous” actions. …

Adrian Zenz, a German scholar subject to Chinese sanctions, tweeted:

“Beijing’s strategy on Xinjiang is fundamentally shifting. Their goal is not mainly to erase the evidence, although they do that. It is now also less about denying said evidence, although they still do it. Rather, they now feel untouchable about it all.

“Beijing’s strategy is to simply crush and silence any global opposition to its atrocity by inflicting crushingly punitive measures on anyone who speaks out. A very concerning development.” …

The Guardian, in an editorial, wrote:

“The measures have done more to push Europe towards alignment with the US than anything Joe Biden could have offered, at a time when China is also alienating other players, notably Australia….”

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Matt Pottinger, former deputy White House national security adviser, concluded:

Beijing’s message is unmistakable: You must choose. If you want to do business in China, it must be at the expense of American values. You will meticulously ignore the genocide of ethnic and religious minorities inside China’s borders; you must disregard that Beijing has reneged on its major promises—including the international treaty guaranteeing a ‘high degree of autonomy’ for Hong Kong; and you must stop engaging with security-minded officials in your own capital unless it’s to lobby them on Beijing’s behalf.

Another notable element of Beijing’s approach is its explicit goal of making the world permanently dependent on China, and exploiting that dependency for political ends. Mr. Xi has issued guidance, institutionalized this month by his rubber-stamp parliament, that he’s pursuing a grand strategy of making China independent of high-end imports from industrialized nations while making those nations heavily reliant on China for high-tech supplies and as a market for raw materials.

CEOs will find it increasingly difficult to please both Washington and Beijing …. Chinese leaders, as mentioned, are issuing high-decibel warnings that multinationals must abandon such values as the price of doing business in China.

Like the left in the West, the leftist mothership (communist China) is now so confident and dominant that it has stopped trying to persuade, but instead gives orders and punishes critics. The gloves are coming off worldwide.

hat-tip Stephen Harper