(London) - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown should use his trip to Beijing to discuss urgent domestic and international human rights concerns with the Chinese government, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the prime minister. Brown will be visiting China from January 18 to 20.

“With the Beijing Olympics just months away, Brown has a golden opportunity to press the Chinese leadership on human rights issues,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “But the moment will be wasted if Brown doesn’t make specific requests and urge specific Chinese action.”

In its letter, Human Rights Watch urged Brown to discuss six issues with the Chinese leadership:

  • China’s failure to fully implement new regulations allowing greater press freedom. Should China not implement the new regulations by April, Human Rights Watch has called on senior British officials not to attend the opening or closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games.
  • The re-arrest on December 27, 2007 of prominent HIV/AIDS activist Hu Jia. Brown should seek to meet Hu, as such visits often bring a degree of protection to human rights defenders being harassed by the government.
  • China’s superficial commitments to upholding the rule of law. Human Rights Watch asks Brown to make the arbitrary arrest, detention, or supervision of lawyers a prominent topic at the upcoming UK-China human rights dialogues.
  • Limited Chinese support for international efforts to promote civilian protection in Darfur, Sudan. Although China has supported key UN resolutions and put some public pressure on the Sudanese government, greater Chinese involvement is needed to pressure Khartoum to stop hindering the deployment of the new international peacekeeping force in Darfur and to cooperate with the International Criminal Court.
  • Limited Chinese support for international efforts to promote human rights in Burma. China’s continued transfer of weapons to Burma’s abusive military has weakened its positive role in accepting some multinational criticism of the Burmese government and helping to ensure visas for UN special envoys. Brown should publicly urge China to suspend weapons transfers to Burma.
  • Absence of transparency in Chinese aid to abusive governments. The positive step of a UK-China dialogue on foreign aid should include urging China to be more transparent about where and how its assistance is used, so that it promotes, not undermines, human rights.

“China’s position on human rights runs through all aspects of its relationship with Britain – economic, Olympic, security, health, and international cooperation,” said Richardson. “Prime Minister Brown has multiple venues in which he can – and should – raise these concerns.”