EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2016

Global governance

68 - Rule of law and human rights in Asia

Grade: C
Unity 1/5
Resources 3/5
Strategy 2/5
Impact 2/5
Total 8/20
Scorecard 2015: C (8/20)
Scorecard 2014: C (8/20)
Scorecard 2013: C (8/20)
Scorecard 2012: D+ (5/20)
Scorecard 2010/11: D+ (0/20)

Member states provided meagre support for EU human rights initiatives on China, but were more unified on the rest of Asia

The EU consistently worked to promote human rights in Asia in 2015. The special representative for human rights, Stavros Lambrinidis, visited China in November, and the EU conducted human rights dialogues with China in November and ASEAN in October. The Union deployed an election observation mission to Myanmar for the November elections. It issued strong statements on the deteriorating human rights situation in China, on Pakistan’s reinstatement of the death penalty after the 2014 Peshawar school attack, and on executions in Japan, Singapore, Indonesia, and Taiwan, as well as on the sentencing of political opponents or human rights activists across the region. The Indian government tightened its control over the media and NGOs, particularly after Modi’s election, which might be a concern for EU human rights policy in coming years.

Regarding China, the disconnect between EU-level and member state policy continued in 2015. While human rights remains one of the EEAS’s official priorities on China, most member states were reluctant to raise the issue directly with Beijing. Smaller member states justified their position by arguing that they are too small to make any difference, while some larger member states argued that “private and discreet” discussions behind closed doors were more useful, or simply stated that they were not interested or committed to engaging with China on the topic.

In general, member states’ human rights policies on China were restricted by economic considerations, and European leaders refrained from directly criticising the country on human rights. Most often, human rights policy was outsourced to the EU or to third parties such as the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), or to civil society, NGOs, and media outlets throughout Europe, which unfortunately have a limited impact on Chinese policy. The increased need for Chinese engagement on international crises (Ukraine and Syria, among others) may also have played a role in discouraging European policymakers from taking action on this front.