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by Glacier Kwong

Before the petition David Missal and I filed was made available for the public, a discussion about the Magnitsky Act has gained momentum in the Bundestag. It is generally worried that if sanctions are to be posted on Beijing, it will affect the German economy negatively. However, on one hand, Germany’s economy is less dependent on Beijing than we perceived, on the other that Magnitsky act is not an “economic sanction” that bans trade entirely between Germany and China, it is a sanction that targets individuals who directly involved in human rights violation and hence has little effect on the economy as a whole.

According to statistics, neither German nor the European Union is as dependent on China as it appears to be on the media. In 2018, the single market accounted for 2,4 percent total exports going to China, against 66.1 percent of the 27 members states and the UK. For exports outside of the single market, the share of exporting to the US is 9.3 percent higher than that going to China. It is not to be denied that China is a global and powerful economic player, but it is extremely important to acknowledge the fact to debunk the narrative that Germany and the EU cannot survive economically without China. And China does not provide unlimited economic opportunities, unlike it repeatedly stresses in its propaganda. The misconception is largely driven by over-exposure to certain industries here in Germany, which heavily invested there.

On March 14, 2019, urges the European level, a resolution passed by a large majority urges all 28 member states, to enact accountability laws similar to the Magnitsky act. On December 9, 2019, the foreign ministers of the EU member states met in Brussels and unanimously approved legislation to activate the EU version of the Magnitsky Act. Last year, The Netherlands was the first country to pass the Dutch version of the Magnitsky Act on Human Rights Accountability by a large majority late last month, requiring the government to include Chinese and Hong Kong officials who use excessive force to suppress protesters in its sanctions list from January 31, 2020.

Magnitsky Act, or an individual sanction, is not an economic sanction that completely prohibits trade with another state, i.e. China. This legal mechanism, once passed, authorizes the government to impose sanctions against persons who violate human rights and are clearly corrupted, possible sanctions include banning entry, freezing one’s property in the state. The law in itself does not seek to “support” a specific country or city, it is a law that seeks to punish those who violate human rights.

This piece of legislation will not harm trade between Germany and other countries. Only those who have committed a violation of fundamental rights will be affected by it; the main targets of the sanctions are: government officials responsible for unlawful executions, torture or serious human rights violations, as well as officials who obstruct individuals or organizations that fight for or promote human rights; agents of the above-mentioned officials, regardless of rank, and even non-government collaborators; officials who are seriously corrupt or accept bribes; and related personnel who facilitate or transfer the illegal income of the above-mentioned officials or provide other technical support. Germany, as one of the member states of the European Union, pledges itself to not be directly or indirectly involving in human rights violations, it is the right thing to do to have such legal mechanism. The legislation will not only deter those who intend to commit human rights violations but also prevent them from taking advantage of the systems of Europe.

Moreover, it depends on the scope and threshold of the law to decide who to sanction, those being sanctioned are not randomly handpicked by politicians, there has to be a strong legal basis to impose any sanctions against an individual. If the law is drafted under thorough considerations, it is nearly impossible to have a great adverse effect on the economy as it will be able to target those who it aims to deter. In the US, the legislation has recently been used to four senior Xinjiang officials, including Xinjiang Party Committee Secretary Chen nationwide, former Politics and Law Committee Secretary Zhu Hailun, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Government Vice Chairman Wang Mingshan and current Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Public Security Department Party Committee Secretary Huo Liujun, for their involvement in serious human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Xinjiang. These people have clearly met the provisions in the law for their serious human rights infringements inside the so-called “re-education camps” in Xinjiang.

Passing legislation similar to the Magnitsky Act should not be considered as an act of picking on China. The law picks on those who violate human rights, it is to deter them from abusing their authority and to prevent further oppression in the world. It does not target China, it target all that are responsible for their wrongdoings in Syria, Myanmar, Philippines, North Korea, and in the globe; if someone in China is responsible for oppressions, he/she will be made responsible, too. I urge Germany to make the right choice to pass similar legislation, not to stand with Hong Kong, but to honour its promise to prevent human rights violation and stand with all those who are suffering from human rights abuse. Also, I sincerely hope that you’d take part in the sanction we filed, so as to push for real changes within the system.

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