Chinese EU envoy says there is no flexibility on Taiwan, sanctions and trade

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An attendant walks past the EU and China flags ahead of the EU-China High Level Economic Dialogue at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China on June 25, 2018. REUTERS / Jason Lee

BRUSSELS, Nov. 16 (Reuters) – China will never change its stance on Taiwan, nor will it change its view that the European Union must lift its sanctions if a new Sino-European investment deal is to be ratified, a the Chinese ambassador to the EU said on Tuesday.

Despite plans for an EU-China summit by the end of this year, Zhang Ming’s comments offered little hope of a diplomatic breakthrough after EU countries such as Lithuania stepped up contacts with Taiwan this year.

“If anything changes, it is that the determination of the Chinese people to achieve the full reunification of our country becomes even stronger,” Zhang said of Taiwan.

“Some people in Europe seem to underestimate the Chinese people’s aspiration to reunify our country,” he said at an online think tank in Brussels.

Zhang Ming said any attempt by Europeans to develop official relations with Taiwan was unacceptable, after Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu made a rare trip to Europe in late October, angering Beijing.

China claims Taiwan as its “sacred territory” and has not ruled out the use of force to ensure eventual unification. Taiwan does not maintain formal diplomatic relations with any European country except Vatican City. But he wants to deepen his ties with the democracies of the EU.

In March, the EU imposed sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and China responded with its own sanctions against Europeans. Neither side is ready to raise them.

Zhang noted that it took seven years and 35 negotiating rounds for China and the EU to agree politically on the investment pact in December of last year.

“I regret to see that because of the obstacles caused by the European side, its ratification has hit the rocks,” he said, referring to the sanctions.

Accused of massive detentions of Uyghur Muslims in northwest China, the EU targets included Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau. The EU said Chen was responsible for “serious human rights violations.”

China denies any wrongdoing and has called on the West not to interfere in its internal affairs, especially on Uyghurs, an ethnic group seen as more closely related to Central Asians than to China’s Han majority.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Nick Macfie

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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