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(Brussels) The European Union should demand clear progress on human rights from China during their bilateral human rights dialogue this week, Human Rights Watch urged today in an open letter. The meeting is scheduled for November 27-28 in Beijing.

The coming round will be the 16th scheduled human rights dialogue between China and the European Union. Part of the impetus for the meetings, which began in 1995, came from the Chinese government’s desire to put an end to public condemnation of China at international fora such as the annual meeting of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The human rights dialogues are usually held twice a year, with one in Europe and one in Beijing, sometimes in conjunction with a side trip to a specific region such as Tibet. Neither side releases information about the agenda or the outcome of the talks.

“For all the talk, the same human rights violations are continually occurring in China,” said Lotte Leicht, Brussels Director for Human Rights Watch. “If these talks are to have any credibility, it’s necessary that they establish transparent and measurable benchmarks to measure any progress on China’s part. More of the same would be tantamount to doing nothing.”

Human Rights Watch reminded the European Union that its own Guidelines on Human Rights Dialogues call for establishing the “criteria for measuring the progress achieved … and also criteria for a possible exit strategy.”

Human Rights Watch recommended seven issues that the dialogues should consider and recommended benchmarks for measuring progress. It asked for:

  • abolition of all forms of administrative detention, including reeducation through labor;
  • removal of government controls on Tibetan religious organization, activity and belief;
  • abolition of the “Strike Hard” anti-crime campaign, which significantly speeds up the judicial process at the expense of fundamental due process and the right to a fair trial;
  • enactment of a national law prohibiting discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS;
  • revocation of China’s reservation to Article 8(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which grants workers the right to form independent trade unions;
  • ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and
  • open invitations to all U.N. special rapporteurs and working groups.

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