EU/China human rights dialogue : more than a toothless exercise?

Press release
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On 20 and 21 September is taking place the EU/China human rights dialogue. On that occasion, the FIDH and HRIC wish to draw the attention of the EU twenty-five member states on the continuous serious human rights violation taking place in China.

“While a constitutional amendment was introduced in the Chinese Constitution last March regarding the respect and the protection of human rights, protections of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights must be implemented in practice and in national and local policies. Human Rights violations are still egregious in China”, said Sidiki Kaba, President of the FIDH. He added : “Since the last session of the dialogue, in February 2004, we are particularly concerned at the increased repression against the petitioners coming to Beijing to protest against injustices”.

Ahead of the 16th session the the National Peoples’ Congress, in March 2004, more than 3000 petitioners were reportedly detained at Shijingshan Gymnasium in the outskirts of Beijing before being sent home. Earlier this month, police detained more than 36,000 petitioners from all over China. Many of the petitioners arrested have been ill-treated in custody . The petitioners were subsequently transferred in the basement of the Shijingshan Gymnasium, where public security police from their locations of origin picked them up and forced them to return home.

“The number of petitions to the central government is increasing. Those petitions aim at denouncing corruption and impunity of local authorities, protesting unpaid salaries, forced demolitions of homes and illegal sale of agricultural lands”, said Sharon Hom, Executive Director of HRIC. “Answering the complaints of human rights violations by violent repression is a further violation of the rights of the Chinese people”, she added.

Releases of high-profile political prisoners regularly happen on the eve of bilateral and multilateral dialogues and meetings in order to show progress in the field of human rights. However, politically-motivated arrests continue simultaneously. Victims notably include cyber-dissidents, members of unregistered religious groups, Falungong practitioners and labour leaders.

In Xinjiang, the struggle against terrorism is instrumentalised to crackdown on the Uighur minority since the Chinese government does not differentiate between violent and non-violent actions. According to Amnesty International, more than 50 people have been sentenced to death for “separatist and terrorist” activities during the first eight months of this year in Xinjiang. No information are available on the circumstances of their trial or their conditions of detention. Our organisations recall that in China, the death penalty occurs most of the time after unfair or summary trials lacking any due process protections.

Last but not least, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture was supposed to visit China last June, after the Chinese government had eventually agreed on the terms of reference of such a visit, pending since 1995. The postponement of that visit, announced by the Chinese government a few days before the expected date for the visit, raises serious questions about the sincerity of the Chinese government’s commitment to international cooperation.

The FIDH and HRIC call upon the twenty-five EU member States to make sure that all those issues will be discussed at the next session of the human rights dialogue. They also reiterate their strong belief that the dialogue must be backed by relevant diplomatic and political pressure, at all levels, including in the UN bodies. “If the EU does not take that element into account, the human rights dialogue faces the risk of being a toothless and vain exercise”, concluded Sidiki Kaba, from the FIDH.

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