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EU: Address China’s Downward Spiral on Rights

Council, Commission Presidents Should Focus on Rights Defenders

(Brussels) – European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker should underscore the EU’s Strategic Framework on Human Rights by placing those issues at the center of the EU-China summit, Human Rights Watch said in a letter today. The summit will be held in Brussels on June 29, 2015.

“If the EU is remotely serious about its own freely-undertaken pledges to raise human rights in all external actions, and at the highest levels of government, we should hear a great deal next week about torture, arbitrary detention, and China’s draconian new laws,” said Lotte Leicht, EU Director. “What’s more, we should hear Presidents Tusk and Junker insist on the release of Chinese activists who are paying a high price for their peaceful advocacy – Liu Xiaobo, Gao Yu, Ilham Tohti, along with many others.”

Human Rights Watch’s letter points out the EU’s efforts in some individual cases, but expresses concern at its inconsistency and reticence to implement its own diplomatic pledges. The letter urges Tusk and Junker to:

  • Explain to their Chinese counterparts the challenges linked to closer EU-China relations as a result of ongoing violations of human rights and rule of law;
  • Publicly call on their Chinese counterparts to withdraw or revise in conformity with international standards proposed legislation on counterterrorism, national security, and the management of foreign nongovernmental organizations;
  • Publicly call for the release and end to harassment of peaceful government critics, anti-corruption activists, lawyers, and journalists; and
  • Publicly raise China’s extensive crackdown on civil society, ongoing human rights abuses in Tibet and Xinjiang, and other issues echoed in the EU’s own March 2015 United Nations Human Rights council intervention.

“The Chinese government’s current assault on critics and thinkers in China – including academic, religious, and political voices – is severe and brutal,” said Leicht. “If the EU’s highest officials won’t take a principled human rights stand during the Brussels Summit, they will betray courageous activists across China.” 

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