Human rights and Beijing Summit: the EU must not remain silent on Chinese crimes

Comments Off on Human rights and Beijing Summit: the EU must not remain silent on Chinese crimes

Originally published by AsiaNews on 22 March, 2022

The Ukrainian crisis must not divert attention from the atrocities committed by the Chinese regime, say the signatories of an appeal to Europe. Abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, the Hong Kong democracy movement and dissidents in China are in focus. The EU must demand the release of all political prisoners. Tensions are high between Europeans and Beijing.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – “While we understand that the main topic of discussions will be the Ukraine crisis and the Chinese government’s position on it, we urge you to dedicate adequate time to also discuss those authorities’ assaults on human rights both within and increasingly outside China’s borders” reads an  appeal made to the European Commission and the EU Council by a group of humanitarian organisations ahead of the EU-China summit on 1 April. Among the signatories are groups such as Human Rights Watch, Chinese Human Rights Defenders, World Uyghur Congress and International Campaign for Tibet.

The promoters of the document stress that their concerns are in line with what Josep Borrell said at the recent Munich Security Conference. There, the European foreign policy chief spoke of the need to resist the “revisionist campaign” by Beijing and other governments against human rights and international institutions.

Since the last Sino-European meeting in December 2020, humanitarian groups recall providing further information on the mass atrocities committed by the Chinese regime against Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking communities in Xinjiang. The same applies to Beijing’s policies aimed at eliminating the cultural, linguistic and religious rights of Tibetans and suppressing the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Activists also denounce the government’s increased use of hi-tech surveillance systems to monitor the Chinese population and the systematic persecution of human rights lawyers. Beijing’s efforts to undermine international mechanisms by which the Chinese leadership could be forced to answer to the United Nations were also targeted.

Specifically, the organisers of the appeal ask the EU to suspend the bilateral dialogue on human rights with China, which is considered useless, and to start a “shadow” dialogue with humanitarian activists who can provide a more realistic picture of Beijing’s repressive policies. They also asked for European help in setting up an independent international investigation into abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities and promoting “universal jurisdiction” over humanitarian crimes committed by the Chinese authorities.

According to the signatories, the EU should adopt additional sanctions against perpetrators of atrocities in China, and urge unrestricted access to Tibet and Xinjiang for foreign diplomats and parliamentarians, UN experts, journalists and non-governmental organisations. More importantly, they call on European leaders to demand at the start of the summit with China the immediate release of political prisoners, especially those in serious health conditions. Among the names mentioned are independent blogger Zhang Zhan, Uyghur economist Ilham Tohti, Swedish citizen publisher Gui Minhai, social activist Li Qiaochu, Tibetan monk Rinchen Tsultrim, jurist Xu Zhiyong, environmentalist Anya Sengdra, and human rights lawyers Chang Weiping, Ding Jiaxi, and Gao Zhisheng.

The dialogue between the EU and China is likely to be difficult, particularly because of Beijing’s ambiguous position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. European chancelleries have called for Chinese mediation to resolve the conflict, but have pointed out that this request will be withdrawn if it emerges – as claimed by the United States – that Xi Jinping is willing to help Moscow militarily and economically.

A year ago, China sanctioned five EU parliamentarians, the parliamentary subcommittee for human rights, as well as some European academics. The move by the Asian giant came in response to sanctions adopted by the EU against four senior Chinese officials, held responsible for repressing the rights of Turkish-speaking Muslims in Xinjiang.

The exchange of sanctions and counter-sanctions between the two sides has frozen – if not actually “killed” – the European process of ratifying the investment agreement with China. In January, the EU also reported Beijing to the World Trade Organisation for its trade boycott against Lithuania. Previously, the use of the word ‘Taiwanese’ for Taiwan’s diplomatic mission in Vilnius had triggered retaliation from China, which considers Taipei a ‘rebel province’.

Back to Top