Statement of the EU Delegation to China on the International Human Rights Day
The European Union is guided by the principles of the universality, interdependence and indivisibility of human rights, which are inherent to all human beings, to all cultures, at all times and everywhere. As enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to freedom of thought, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and association are inalienable and universal rights. They are non-derogable geographically or culturally.
In recent years, China has made notable efforts in poverty alleviation, improved access to health, education and implemented other social improvements for its citizens. At the same time, civil and political rights are not guaranteed and are in some cases even deliberately systematically violated.
The estimated number of death sentences and executions in China by far exceeds that of all other countries taken together, and it is also applied in the case of non-violent offences. The EU calls upon China to provide more transparency in the application and imposition of the death penalty and to further reduce the number of criminal offenses punishable by death. The EU reaffirms that the death penalty remains an ineffective, unnecessary and irrevocable punishment, and therefore urges China to introduce a moratorium on executions and ultimately abolish this inhuman practice. The EU is also aware of reports about the ongoing practice in China of organ harvesting, often from detainees belonging to ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities and other persons in vulnerable situations. Forced organ harvesting is a criminal, inhumane and unethical practice, and must be stopped.
The EU continues to be gravely concerned about the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, with particular regard to the large-scale arbitrary detentions, widespread surveillance, and systemic restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, as well as evidence-based reports about forced labour, forced birth control and sexual and gender based violence against Uyghurs and other persons belonging to minorities. The EU reiterates its call on China to comply with its obligations under national and international law to respect and protect the rights of persons belonging all ethnic and religious groups in China, including in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. The EU encourages the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the human rights situation in Xinjiang, including through an independent, objective, impartial and transparent assessment of the situation. The EU also continues to call for meaningful, unrestricted and unsupervised access by independent international experts, foreign journalists and diplomats to Xinjiang, Tibet and elsewhere in China.
The EU is gravely concerned about the arbitrary detentions, unfair trials and unjust sentencing of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals. Among many others Chang Weiping, Chen Jianfang, Chen Yunfei, Cheng Yuan, Ding Jiaxi, Gao Zhisheng, Guo Quan, Huang Qi, Li Qiaochu, Li Yuhan, Liu Feiyue, Qin Yongmin, Qin Yongpei, Tiyip Tashpolat, Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, Pastor Wang Yi, Wang Zang, Wu Gan, Wuge Jianxiong, Xu Zhiyong, and Yu Wensheng, as well as the EU citizen Gui Minhai have been unjustly convicted, arbitrarily detained, or forcibly disappeared. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of these individuals, as well as other prisoners of conscience.
The EU urges China to ensure full respect for the rule of law, ensure fair trial and due process guarantees and to investigate thoroughly reported cases of arbitrary detention, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and harassment of human rights defenders and their families. Those detained should be guaranteed access to lawyers of their own choice, medical assistance and their family members. China should stop the practice of residential surveillance at a designated location (RSDL) which has been condemned by the UN Special Procedures, as well as discontinue the use of torture inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detained persons to extract forced and public confessions.
The freedom of expression and access to information have been increasingly severely suppressed in China by means of censorship, intimidation and surveillance of journalists and media workers. The cases of Chinese journalists or citizens who disappeared, were detained or harassed due to their brave and truthful reporting on COVID-19 epidemic at its outbreak are of particular concern. The EU expects that Zhang Zhan, Sophia Huang Xueqin, Fang Bin, among others, be promptly released. Foreign journalists and media workers in China continue to face harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention, visa restrictions and surveillance because of their professional activities for not “telling the China story well” but for telling it truthfully. The European Union and its Member States emphasize the critical importance of freedom of expression and media freedom as vital to good governance.
The EU firmly believes that gender equality, women’s rights and rights of LGBTI persons should be fully respected and protected globally. In China, progress has been made towards gender equality, however, gender based violence remains widespread, the #MeToo movement has been cracked down upon and female activists are victims of human rights violations and abuses. The EU continues to call upon China to uphold its pledge to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence. The recent case of the tennis-player Peng Shuai created international concern about women’s rights in China including among the EU Member states, and the EU continues to urge the Chinese authorities to conduct a full, fair and transparent investigation into her allegations of sexual assault.
In the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the National Security Law undermines fundamental rights and freedoms that China had committed to respect until at least 2047.
Human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are the bedrock of our societies and common identity. Despite the differences, the European Union and its Member States stand ready to engage with China within the framework of the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue and in multilateral fora to promote respect for the rule of law and human rights, in accordance with international human rights obligations.