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Evelyne Gebhardt – a true European with a commitment to China

Evelyne Gebhardt is Vice-Chair of the China Delegation in the European Parliament since 2019

Evelyne Gebhardt is a true European. The visitor notices this as soon as she greets her. The 67-year-old speaks perfect German – with an unmistakable French accent. Her love of German studies and a German man brought her from Île-de-France to Baden-Württemberg when she was very young. And it is this European spirit that also carries her political commitment to human rights. “Civil rights, illimitability, overcoming war have always been very important to me,” explains the politician, who lives in the German city of Schwäbisch Hall. This is the reason why she became an MEP in the first place: “Fundamental rights are what make up our European identity, and I want people in other countries to be able to enjoy the freedoms that accompany them. So when the Chinese government tells us that human rights in China are none of our business, I say clearly that that is not true. We have to get involved.”

When the China delegation last traveled to the Middle Kingdom around three years ago, Gebhardt was not with them. She dates her last visit to China eight to nine years back. “The country has a fascinating history with a great peace dividend. I think it is a pity that China does not continue this but acts harshly against its own people,” says the SPD politician, citing a few examples: “The unacceptable camps in which the Uyghurs are forced to give up their religion and their own way of life. The national security law by Beijing, which practically puts the second system of Hong Kong, ad acta. The hostility with which the Xi Jinping government is currently targeting Taiwan.”

Gebhardt is convinced that relations with China have never been as bad as they are right now. And who could assess this better than her, who has been a Member of the European Parliament since 1994? “Cooperation has deteriorated, of course,” she says. And at the moment, it is “not opportune” to try to travel there as an MEP. Yet it would be so important to have good relations with this global player – Gebhardt also notices this in her daily work in the Internal Market Committee of the European Parliament. “China has great initiatives like the Silk Road or their engagement in Africa. It is important that we accompany that and shape our own strategies in this relationship.” This is why Gebhardt talks on a daily basis to experts, human rights activists, and journalists who report on the situation in China. And she appeals to the government to re-engage with the European Parliament: “Beijing must lift sanctions against MEPs and the European Parliament’s Human Rights Committee.” Janna Degener-Storr


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