At the invitation of Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, the EU ‘Troika’ Foreign Ministers, Jean Asselborn, Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations of European Commission and a representative of British Foreign Minister are currently on an official visit to China. The visit was widely seen as a high-level meeting to discuss the future of the EU’s arms embargo on China.

On the 11 May, newssites and agencies such as CNN and AFP carried reports that the EU delegation visiting Beijing had handed over a list of four human rights demands, including the release of demonstrators imprisoned after the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square, a timetable for ratification of the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights, ending imprisonment without trial, known as re-education through labour; and a loosening of control over the media.

The visiting officials urged China to improve its human rights record to create a “positive climate” for ending a ban on European arms sales to the country. Mrs Ferrero-Waldner warned that “climate” should be right – highlighting human rights as a key European concern.

“Lifting the embargo will of course be easier if the climate is right,” she said. “Above all, we need to help persuade our public opinion China is making concrete steps to improve human rights”.

These comments come after a series of national parliaments in the EU, including in Germany and Luxembourg, voiced opposition to the lifting of the ban.

However, any linkage between human rights and the lifting of the arms embargo was rejected by the Chinese.

“Linking this problem with the issue of human rights does not have any reason and is not helpful”, Li Zhaoxing, China’s foreign minister said, according to the UK’s Telegraph. “As to the question of lifting the arms embargo, which is outdated and helpful to no one, this is something that will benefit everyone and not harm anyone”, he said.

The EU’s failure to agree to a lifting of the embargo has been a major diplomatic defeat for China, which was assured in December that the ban would be lifted by the end of June.

Report compiled by ICT Europe.