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(Paris) – On his visit to China, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault should publicly call for an end to Beijing’s crackdown on human rights defenders and lawyers, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the foreign minister. Ayrault is scheduled to arrive in China on October 29, 2016.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and President Xi Jinping meet in Beijing, China. © 2013 Reuters

“On past visits, French leaders have relied on vague statements about the need to respect human rights principles, but not criticized China’s violations of law,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director.

Under President Xi Jinping, the outlook for fundamental human rights in China has grown dire.

In July 2015, more than 300 human rights lawyers and legal activists across the country were detained in a nationwide sweep, and over 20 remain in detention. Chinese authorities continue to adopt highly abusive laws on issues ranging from cybersecurity to domestic civil society groups, and refuse to consider the grievances of ethnic minority and religious communities.

Foreign Minister Ayrault and other French officials should publicly call for an end to the civil society crackdown and for the release of wrongfully imprisoned individuals, including Liu Xiaobo and Ilham Tohti. Ayrault should also challenge his Chinese counterparts over China’s use of the death penalty and its abductions of foreign nationals.

“France and Foreign Minister Ayrault should join the growing international chorus of nations speaking out publicly, and do so in a way that people across China can hear,” Jeannerod said.

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