Statement of the EU Delegation to China on the International Human Rights Day
The European Union is guided by the principle of the universality 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 not subject to geographical or cultural adaptations.
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 EU welcomes the release of the assessment report of human rights concerns in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report underscores the serious human rights violations occurring in Xinjiang and finds that these may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity. The EU underscores the need for justice and accountability and urges China to cooperate with the OHCHR on how to implement the report’s recommendations, and the need for the opportunity for substantive discussion on the human rights situation in Xinjiang, based on the assessment report. The EU reiterates its persistent and serious concerns about the existence of a large network of political re-education camps, mass arbitrary detentions, widespread surveillance, tracking and control measures, systemic and severe restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief, as well as the use of forced labour, torture, forced abortion and sterilisation, birth control and family separation policies, and all forms of sexual and gender-based violence, which have been confirmed by the report. According to the report, the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region requires urgent attention
by the Chinese Government, the United Nations intergovernmental bodies and human rights system, as well as the international community more broadly.
The EU urges China to abide by its obligations under national and international law to respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, including Uyghurs and persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities across China, especially in Xinjiang, Tibet and Inner Mongolia. This includes fully respecting the principle of non-refoulement. 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 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.
Equally of serious concern is the intensified crackdown on human rights defenders, human rights lawyers, journalists, independent reporters, other media workers and intellectuals. The EU continues to closely monitor the situation and calls for the immediate and unconditional release of, among others, Pastor Cao Sanqiang, Chang Weiping, Chen Jianfang, Chen Yunfei, Cheng Yuan, Ding Jiaxi, Fang Bin, Gao Zhisheng, Go Sherab Gyatso, Guo Quan, Huang Qi, Huang Xueqin, Li Qiaochu, Li Yuhan, Qin Yongmin, Qin Yongpei, Rinchen Tsultrim, Tang Jitian, Tashi Dorje, Tashpolat Tiyip, Sakharov Prize laureate Ilham Tohti, Wang Bingzhang, Wang Jianbing, Pastor Wang Yi, Wang Li, Wang Zang, Wu Gan, Xu Qin, Xu Na, Xu Zhiyong, Yang Maodong, Pastor Zhang Chunlei and Zhang Zhan as well as the EU citizen Gui Minhai whose right to consular access must be respected. 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. 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 EU and its Member States emphasize the critical importance of freedom of expression and media freedom as vital to good governance. The EU also urges China to respect international law and principles, and respect human rights, including the right to peaceful protest.
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.
Furthermore, the EU remains gravely concerned about the repressive use of the National Security Law (NSL) in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the renewed use of the Sedition Law, and the sweeping changes in the Special Administrative Region electoral system.
Nevertheless, despite systemic differences between the EU and China regarding Human Rights, the EU believes that bilateral dialogue can and should be used to discuss about those differences and to cooperate in areas where there is a potential for engagement.
This is why the EU welcomed China’s readiness to resume the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue expressed during the official visit of the President of the European Council on 1 December 2022. The EU expects that this dedicated channel of communication on human rights will allow for substantive discussions on human rights policy issues and concerns.