China’s ambassador to Belgium has been accused of trying to hinder the country’s democratic processes, after he sent a warning letter to local lawmakers who are considering punitive action over the national security law imposed on Hong Kong
China’s ambassador warns Belgian lawmakers as they debate resolutions on Hong Kong
Ambassador Cao Zhongming, expressing ‘serious concern’, complains that the draft resolutions ‘distorted and smeared the Hong Kong national security law’ One lawmaker accuses China of ‘trying to prevent … parliamentarians from adopting any kind of stance on the human rights situation in Hong Kong’
Finbarr Bermingham in Brussels + FOLLOW
Published: 6:36am, 1 Oct, 2021
China’s ambassador to Belgium has been accused of trying to hinder the country’s democratic processes, after he sent a warning letter to local lawmakers who are considering punitive action over the sweeping national security law imposed on Hong Kong.
Cao Zhongming, in a letter seen by the South China Morning Post, said that the draft resolutions “distorted and smeared the Hong Kong national security law, and interfered in China’s internal affairs”.
“We express our serious concern about this,” Cao wrote in a letter to Els Van Hoof, the head of Belgium’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, adding that he had “talked to you on several occasions” about China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong. The letter was first reported by local Belgian media.
Lawmakers in Belgium’s parliament are debating the draft proposals, which were written in September 2020 but which will be updated this week. Once adopted by the committee, they will be put to a non-binding vote, which will constitute the position of the parliament.
The government is not legally bound to adopt the measures, which condemn Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong and promote a tough response, but significant backing in the parliament may be difficult for the coalition government to ignore
“It’s very clear that China is trying to prevent democratically elected parliamentarians from adopting any kind of stance on the human rights situation in Hong Kong,” said Samuel Cogolati, a Green Party MP and a co-author of the resolutions.
“But at the same time, it would be extremely naive to believe that we would be intimidated by this kind of letter,” he added.
Belgium is one of 10 EU countries which maintains an extradition treaty with China. The resolutions urge the government to scrap it, and to cut economic dependence on China and Chinese companies, including the telecoms giant Huawei Technologies.