Agence France Press

European Parliament votes to continue China arms embargo

Wednesday November 17, 2004

STRASSBOURG, (AFP) - The European Parliament voted Wednesday to maintain an EU arms sales embargo against China until it improves its humsan rights record.

The vote flew in the face of the wishes of leading EU member-states France and Germany.

A resolution called on the EU Council of Ministers and the 25 member-states "to maintain the European Union embargo on trade in arms with the People's Republic of China and not weaken national restrictions on such arms sales." It said the embargo should continue until the EU had adopted a code of conduct providing legal restraints on arms exports, and until China took "concrete measures to improve its human rights situation."

During debating Tuesday, parliamentary deputies across the political spectrum voiced opposition to lifting the embargo, recalling continuing rights violations in China despite some improvement, and also China's threat to Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province.

The continuation of the embargo -- which is likely to come up during an EU summit in Brussels in December -- was part of a broader parliament report on EU arms exports adopted by Wednesday's plenary session.

The consultative document advocated strengthening the EU's 1998 code of conduct in respect of verification and transparency.

It called for the code to have the strength of a legally binding document and urged that complete harmonisation of member-states concerning arms export controls be ensured.

France and Germany want an end to the amrs embargo against China which was imposed after demonstrations on Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989 were brutally crushed by the authorities.

Those who want the ban to remain argue that China must improve its human rights record but an increasingly vocal movement led notably by France says the embargo is outdated 15 years after the Tiananmen Square events.