G20 Heads of State Must Not Ignore China’s Worsening Human Rights

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G20 Heads of State Must Not Ignore China’s Worsening Human Rights

An Open Letter to Leaders of G20 Countries Attending Summit in Hangzhou

Leaders of G20 Countries:

When you arrive in China and reach the scenic Chinese city of Hangzhou to attend the G20 Summit on September 4-5, it will be during the worst human rights crackdown in the country since the suppression of the 1989 pro-democracy movement. CHRD believes that your raising concerns of human rights with Chinese leaders and voicing support for the rule of law will help advance the Summit’s objective of building economic cooperation. Such action on your part would hold great value, since many practices and policies of President Xi Jinping’s administration do not make China an accountable and responsible global partner today, including the suffocation of a growing and dynamic civil society, suppression of dissent and ethnic/religious minorities, and the state’s disregard for both domestic laws and its obligations to international human rights conventions.

At the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in September, foreign heads of state have the opportunity to question Chinese leaders about human rights abuses.

At the G20 Summit in Hangzhou in September, foreign heads of state have the opportunity to question Chinese leaders about human rights abuses.

At the Summit, you can ask Chinese leaders how they hope to inspire confidence with statements like “civil society organizations are a major force for encouraging people to get involved in public affairs” when the government continues to imprison human rights defenders and outspoken critics of its policies. Or you can inquire, after China’s adoption of the Overseas NGO Management Law, which treats overseas NGOs as national security threats, how the Chinese government will convince the world that it “welcomes overseas NGOs to exchange and cooperate with domestic organizations and will try to create a sound legal environment to facilitate their activities and ensure their legitimate rights.” Such statements were made in a letter signed by President Xi addressing the C20 meeting for “civil society stakeholders,” which China hosted in the city of Qingdao in early July.

Just weeks before the G20 Summit, authorities swiftly tried and convicted four human rights activists and lawyers for “subversion” in widely criticized show trials, and televised their forced confessions in state media. Authorities claim the detainees fell under the influence of “hostile forces” from overseas.

Preparations for the Summit in Hangzhou mirror Chinese authorities’ “clean up” and “stability maintenance” operations that have been undertaken before major international events hosted in the mainland, like the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics. In recent months, authorities in and around Hangzhou have tightened restrictions on “unofficial” Christian house churches, human rights activism, and online expression. In particular, CHRD would like to bring to your attention to the following:

  • Since May, officials have ordered a ban on Protestant worship services in Zhejiang Province, where Hangzhou is the capital, and escalated an “anti-cult” campaign, with state-run media saying that the efforts are aimed to “safeguard security” in the Summit’s host city. The government has accused Christian house churches of holding “illegal gatherings” because they refuse to join a government-approved body that oversees churches. Officials recently tore down a large cross displayed on a Hangzhou church with about 2,000 members. Since the spring of 2014, this kind of religious persecution has been widespread across Zhejiang, which historically has had a large number of practicing Christians.
  • In June, authorities sentenced Hangzhou-based democracy activists Lü Gengsong (吕耿松) and Chen Shuqing (陈树庆) to unusually harsh prison terms—11 years and 10.5 years, respectively—in an apparent attempt to intimidate other activists into silence before the Summit. The alleged “evidence” against them focused on essays published on overseas websites and their activities with the now-banned China Democracy Party, which Chen helped organize in the 1990s.
  • In July, Guo Enping (郭恩平), a civil servant from Taizhou City in Zhejiang, was dismissed from his job and given a 10-day administrative detention after an article he wrote that appeared online, “Hangzhou, Shame on You,” criticized the government’s costly efforts to “beautify” the city as well as the coercive “incentives” offered to residents to leave town before the Summit. Guo, who argued that the “preparation” work done to put Hangzhou on display had greatly disrupted residents’ lives and businesses, was accused of “fabricating rumors” and “using information systems to pick quarrels and provoke trouble.”
  • Not far from the Summit conference site in Hangzhou, longtime democracy activist Zhu Yufu (朱虞夫) has been serving a seven-year sentence since 2012 for “inciting subversion of state power” at the Zhejiang Provincial No. 4 Prison. Authorities have repeatedly denied his family’s requests to grant Zhu medical release even though he suffers from life-threatening health conditions, including heart disease, cerebral vascular sclerosis, and hypertension.

Infringing on human rights to free expression and religious freedom while perpetuating an intolerance of criticism, the Chinese government has failed to create an environment of openness for productive G20 Summit discussions on such issues as “world economic development.” Economic development that is narrowly understood as increasing GDP without the practice of rule of law or human rights protections will simply result in a world without respect for human dignity. Thus, it is vital to the mission of the G20 nations that the Chinese government lift its repressive measures that silence political and religious dissent.


Renee Xia, International Director (Mandarin, English), +1 863 866 1012, reneexia[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @ReneeXiaCHRD

Victor Clemens, Research Coordinator (English), +1 209 643 0539, victorclemens[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter: @VictorClemens

Frances Eve, Researcher (English), +852 6695 4083, franceseve[at]nchrd.org, Follow on Twitter:@FrancesEveCHRD

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