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Dear Minister Le Drian,

Human Rights Watch is an independent international organization that monitors human rights in more than 90 countries around the world. We have been reporting on and advocating solutions to human rights abuses in China for more than 30 years.

We write on the occasion of your forthcoming trip to China, where we urge that you publicly express concern about the deteriorating human rights situation. The broad and sustained attack on human rights that started after President Xi Jinping took power in 2013 showed no signs of abating in 2017. Currently, Human Rights Watch is documenting abusive government policies, including legislating a form of arbitrary detention used for anti-corruption investigations adopted at the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress; permitting torture and ill-treatment of LGBT people under the guise of “therapy” in state-run and private medical facilities; and using a range of new technologies including “big data” to increasingly surveil the country’s population, among many other serious human rights violations.

We note President Emmanuel Macron’s August 30 remarks regarding the bilateral relationship: “Our diplomatic and economic exchanges with … China cannot justify concealing human rights issues behind a veil of modesty. Otherwise, we would be betraying ourselves.” While France has important concerns regarding, for example, China’s engagement in global issues like climate change, that is no justification for France to ignore human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. Promoting China’s path toward becoming a rights-respecting country will require sustained and vigorous action in support of international human rights law and norms.

Human Rights Watch appreciates France’s efforts to encourage China to end the death penalty, and to publicly note the death of 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in July 2017. While in China, we urge that you publicly call for the release of Liu’s widow, Liu Xia, who was forcibly disappeared by authorities after his death, and who is reportedly suffering from depression and a heart condition. We also ask that you publicly condemn the continued enforced disappearances of rights lawyers Gao Zhisheng and Wang Quanzhang.

In recent years Human Rights Watch has increasingly documented the ways in which the Chinese government has sought to undermine or manipulate international institutions charged with key human rights responsibilities. In September, we published a report on Chinese efforts to weaken key United Nations human rights mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review, before which China is again slated to appear in 2018. We have also expressed profound concerns about China’s potential to abuse Interpol’s “red notice” system, as a senior Chinese security official has ascended to a top slot in that organization. And we have analyzed the lack of accountability mechanisms in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which can have a profound impact on human rights.

Given France’s strong support for multilateralism, we urge that you publicly call on China to end its efforts to weaken UN human rights scrutiny of China, and ensure that global policing and economic development efforts conform to international standards. As China seeks to extend its presence globally, what is at stake are not only the human rights of people inside China, but increasingly, those of people around the globe that countries such as France have championed.

Finally, we are gravely concerned about France’s cooperation with China on law enforcement. Human Rights Watch has for decades documented serious human rights violations committed by China’s police and security apparatus, both inside and outside China. We have also reported on violations in the context of China’s anti-corruption campaign, including the global pursuit of allegedly corrupt officials. We are extremely concerned about so-called voluntary repatriations of Chinese nationals from France to China; it remains unclear whether those being sent back have had an adequate opportunity to contest their deportation, or whether French authorities are giving consideration to the likelihood of ill-treatment upon return. We are particularly concerned about the case of Zheng Ning, whom Chinese authorities compelled to return from France in February apparently without the knowledge or cooperation of French police. We urge that while you are in China you inform your Chinese counterparts that France will undertake a thorough review of all law enforcement cooperation with a view toward suspending it in areas where China appears unwilling to abide by established international human rights protections.

We wish you a successful trip and are available to discuss these and other China issues at your convenience.


Bénédicte Jeannerod
France Director
Human Rights Watch

Sophie Richardson
China Director
Human Rights Watch

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