January 30, 2007

President Hu Jintao
People's Republic of China
Zhongnanhai, Xichengqu, Beijing,
People's Republic of China

Dear President Hu:

We write regarding your upcoming trip to Sudan. China recently took positive steps to encourage the Government of Sudan to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur. Yet consistent with China’s international obligations, its aspirations to be seen as a responsible international power, and its claims to be a friend of the Sudanese people, there is a great deal more your government can do on Sudan.

As you know, the situation in Sudan’s Darfur region remains a human rights and humanitarian disaster and has worsened considerably in the course of 2006. At least 200,000 people have died and more than two million civilians have been displaced by systematic violence in the context of the internal conflict. Aid workers are increasingly under attack, threatening the precarious lifeline of humanitarian assistance which currently supports at least 3.5 million people. The Darfur conflict has already entangled its neighbors, with at least 100,000 Chadian civilians displaced in 2006 by militia attacks emanating both from Darfur and from spiraling inter-communal violence influenced by Darfur’s armed actors.

Despite numerous ceasefire agreements, the May 2006 peace accord, and unilateral commitments to end militia recruitment and indiscriminate aerial bombardment, the Sudanese government continues to support ethnic-based attacks on civilians as a method of warfare in violation of international humanitarian law. As recently as January 2007, international observers documented aerial attacks on civilians in North Darfur, and Human Rights Watch research indicates that in spite of all the evidence of massive atrocities committed by its “Janjaweed” militia, the Sudanese government resumed recruitment of new militia forces in late 2006.

The Sudanese government has made no substantive effort to end the impunity of those individuals responsible for the crimes in Darfur and continues to delay and obstruct international support to protect Darfur civilians. These policies can only prolong and exacerbate the misery of people in Darfur and neighboring countries. We enclose several of our recent reports on the situation in Sudan and Chad, and were encouraged to learn recently that our work on Sudan has been of use to several officials at the Chinese Mission to the United Nations.

We believe that there are four steps China can take to improve the situation in Sudan.

First, seriously consider the important step of supporting through the UN the imposition of targeted sanctions on key Sudanese officials responsible for Darfur policy. Such sanctions should include freezing of assets and travel restrictions and should be applied to the Sudanese Minister of Defence and other high-level officials at a minimum. China has recently publicly supported sanctions against Iran and imposed lesser restrictions on North Korea for their nuclear activities. The crisis in Sudan is no less critical, either for its victims in Darfur or for the millions of civilians living in the region who now face threats to their lives and livelihoods because of the regional instability caused by Darfur’s conflict. Millions of civilians face this nightmare because of the Sudanese government’s policies of supporting abusive armed groups both within Sudan and across Sudan’s borders. China can demonstrate its support for regional peace and security by publicly calling for an end to abusive domestic and foreign policies.

Second, in cooperation with other Security Council members, authorize the establishment of a United Nations-administered trust fund for the victims of atrocities. The Security Council should also demand that the Sudanese government support the fund with a portion of its oil revenues. It is clear that the vast majority of Sudan’s oil revenues are not benefiting the millions of Sudanese citizens who require basic services and even international food aid to survive. In Darfur alone, at least 3.5 million are partly or wholly dependent on international aid. At least two million people lost family members, homes and all their assets at the hands of government forces and their militias. Supporting a trust fund will not jeopardize China’s energy interests or cause unemployment in Sudan and will demonstrate China’s support for the victims of the conflict.

Third, it is imperative that China establish new mechanisms to monitor the end-use of its weapons. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials in London recently told Human Rights Watch that China has “a policy of not exporting arms to conflict areas…we only provide arms to legitimate governments, only for self-defense, and the transfer should be conducive to national and regional stability.” Yet Human Rights Watch research has documented the presence and use of Chinese arms by the Sudanese government, the Janjaweed militia, Chadian rebels, and Darfur rebels. In order for your policies to be meaningful, you must immediately assert greater control of the export—either through bilateral agreements or through private Chinese arms traders—of weapons.

Fourth, China should examine the connection between Sudanese oil development and human rights abuses. Human Rights Watch remains extremely concerned by a number of practices in Sudan’s oil sector, including forced displacement of rural communities living in oil-rich areas, often through targeted aerial and ground attacks by Sudanese armed forces, and the environmental impact of oil exploitation in southern and southeastern Sudan. Chinese oil companies have frequently been operating in areas where communities complain of a wide range of abuses.

Finally, we encourage you to issue an overview or white paper on China’s policies toward the Sudan over the past decade. Surely you will agree that there is much international confusion regarding China’s own actions. It is in everyone’s interests, including China’s, to have a clear sense of what initiatives China has undertaken.

Undertaking these steps will help demonstrate that China’s interest in Sudan is not merely about ensuring its access to oil supplies but also about the welfare of the Sudanese people so devastated by the ongoing conflict. Moreover, it will serve as an important signal to the international community that China takes seriously its obligations to uphold human rights.

Sincerely,

Brad Adams
Executive Director
Asia Division

Peter Takirambudde
Executive Director
Africa Division