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EU: Don’t Sideline Human Rights at EU-China Summit

Worsening Environment Requires Expressions of Concern, Expectations

(New York) – The European Union should strongly express its concerns about China’s deteriorating human rights environment both publicly and privately during the EU-China Summit on February 14, 2012, in Beijing, Human Rights Watch said today.

“With the Chinese government’s widening attacks on freedom of expression, human rights defenders, civil society activists, and government critics, the EU needs to speak out not just to protest abuses, but to make its expectations for positive change crystal clear,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The EU should send a message that the Chinese government’s status quo on human rights is unacceptable and a threat to bilateral relations.”

On February 6, Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, and Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, urging the EU to:

  • Express the EU’s support and solidarity with independent Chinese voices by meeting with human rights defenders and civil society activists inside and outside China, such as the writer Liao Yiwu, who has fled to Germany to seek refuge from Chinese government persecution;
  • Articulate concrete benchmarks for human rights progress before holding future rounds of the EU-China human rights dialogues;
  • Call for the unconditional release of all those imprisoned and detained solely for the peaceful exercise of basic rights, such as the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, and religion. In particular, the EU should publicly reiterate its call for the release of Liu Xiaobo, co-drafter of Charter ’08 and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize;
  • Call for the end of extralegal detention or other extralegal limitations on the rights of activists and their families, such as Liu Xia, the wife of Liu Xiaobo; the blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng and his family; and the public health activist Hu Jia and his family;
  • Make a public commitment that EU member states will not forcibly return asylum seekers from China who have reason to fear persecution;
  • Press the Chinese government to ensure that internationally recognized human rights are not compromised under the excuse of safeguarding public or national security;
  • Press for the immediate establishment of meaningful dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of Tibetans to address Tibetans’ grievances;
  • Encourage the EU’s Chinese counterparts to support efforts at the United Nations Security Council to exert pressure on the Syrian government to stop assaults on civilians that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights says may constitute crimes against humanity;
  • Express concern about China’s failure to respond to the crimes documented in Syria; and
  • Seek China’s support for efforts to protect civilians in Syria, including through a UN Security Council resolution that would help increase international pressure on the Syrian government to halt serious human rights abuses and crimes against humanity, curb impunity for the atrocities, and ban arms transfers to forces engaged in possible crimes against humanity.

“The EU needs to communicate firmly and unambiguously to the Chinese government that long-term, sustainable ties between the EU and China are at risk unless China takes concrete steps to reverse its deteriorating human rights situation,” Richardson said.

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