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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers his New Year wishes to the members of the press corps at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France on January 3, 2018.  © 2018 Ludovic Marin/Pool/Reuters

(Paris) – French President Emmanuel Macron should honor his pledge and call publicly for human rights improvements in meetings with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Macron. He is visiting China for the first time as president from January 8-10, 2018.

“President Macron himself said that France’s diplomatic and economic imperatives with China ‘cannot justify cover-up of the question of human rights,’” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “Macron needs to meaningfully follow through on that commitment with China’s leaders in Beijing.”

Human Rights Watch urged President Macron to, among other steps:

  • Publicly reiterate France’s call for full freedom of movement for Liu Xia, the detained wife of the late dissident Liu Xiaobo;
  • Ask Chinese leaders how French companies can operate in China given increasing censorship of the internet and restrictions on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs);
  • Express concerns about China’s anti-rights conduct at the United Nations and with Interpol; and
  • Inform Chinese counterparts that France will undertake a thorough review of all law enforcement cooperation with a view toward suspending it in areas in which China appears unwilling to abide by international human rights protections.

“The French foreign minister’s November visit to China seemed to ignore human rights, giving an impression of insincerity and inconsistency on rights issues,” Jeannerod said. “If Macron is serious about promoting liberty and democracy worldwide, he should arrive with a long list for President Xi and other Chinese leaders.”

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