China asks EU to remain flexible on negotiations for joint investment deal
- Beijing is ‘very serious about this agreement and has put a lot of effort into the negotiations’, Chinese ambassador to EU Zhang Ming says
- As EU foreign ministers stop short of imposing sanctions on China over Hong Kong, Zhang says two sides are ‘always in communication’ on key issues
“China is very serious about this agreement and has put a lot of effort into the negotiations,” China’s ambassador to the EU Zhang Ming said in an interview on Friday. “We hope our EU partners will meet us halfway.”
His comments came as European foreign ministers joined the United States in criticising Beijing’s passing of a national security law for Hong Kong.
“It takes two to dance,” Zhang said. “We hope the EU will adopt a flexible and pragmatic attitude.”
Zhang said that since the end of last year, the two sides had held monthly negotiations in an “all-out effort” to meet that deadline.
“We did not stop even for the pandemic, and had meetings by videoconference,” he said, adding that two further rounds of talks had already been scheduled.
Officials from the two sides made “great progress” during the latest, four-day, round of talks that ended on Friday, Zhang said, but when asked if a deal might be struck at Leipzig, he said he was “not sure”.
The move did not conform to either Hong Kong’s Basic Law or the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which was signed in 1984 between the British and Chinese governments and set out the terms for the city’s return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.
Zhang responded to the EU statement by saying the legal basis for its move was the Chinese constitution, not the joint declaration.
“It makes no sense to say that China has gone against its international obligations,” he said. “When it comes to the Hong Kong question, this issue is not at all complicated. We are always in communication with each other on Hong Kong questions.”
Despite the criticism from EU foreign ministers, Borrell said that the Leipzig summit would not be cancelled.
“Over the past few days, I have been in communication with my European colleagues regarding Hong Kong,” he said.
“If we can’t solve this in one day, and get rid of our disagreements, we still have tomorrow, and the day after that. First we just have to control it, to protect our greater interests.”
Sanctions were not the solution to the problem, he said.
Earlier in the week, Annalena Baerbock, the joint leader of Germany’s Green party, called for the Leipzig meeting to be scrapped if Beijing did not withdraw the Hong Kong national security law, though German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for more open dialogue following the move.