France's President Francois Hollande (right) welcomes China's President Xi Jinping in Paris on March 26, 2014.

© 2014 Reuters

(Paris) – French President Francois Hollande should publicly deliver a strong message in defense of human rights to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today. Xi will make his first visit to France as president of China the week of March 24, 2014.

“On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationships between China and France, President Hollande should clearly set out France’s expectations that China needs to respect basic human rights,” said Jean Marie Fardeau, France director of Human Rights Watch. “These principles should be stated in private, but also in public.”

The letter specifically calls on President Hollande to:

• Ask President Xi about specific cases of persecuted human rights defenders, including imprisoned 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia; Uighur economist Ilham Tohti; and lawyer Xu Zhiyong; and express concern about activist Cao Shunli, who died on March 14 in a Beijing hospital following her arbitrary detention in September 2013;
• Express concern about the deteriorating human rights situations for ethnic minorities, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang; and
• Express concern about initiatives undertaken since the beginning of Xi’s presidency to limit freedom of expression, especially for civil society, academics, and writers.

“If human rights issues are omitted from the public dimension of this visit, it would send entirely the wrong signal to those in China who expect France to play a leadership role to improve the deteriorating human rights conditions