Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing the Uyghur people in East Turkestan.
High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy /
Vice-President of the European Commission
Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 200
Brussels, April 14, 2017
Re: EU-China Strategic Dialogue and Human Rights
Dear High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini,
We write on the occasion of your visit to China on 19 April for the 7th European Union-China Strategic Dialogue to urge that you speak both publicly and privately about the deteriorating human rights situation in China.
We appreciate the EU’s Item 4 statements at the March and September United Nations Human Rights Council sessions raising concerns about the detention and alleged mistreatment and torture of human rights lawyers and activists and the situations in Tibet and Xinjiang. But we are also disappointed that because of the objections of some member states the EU did not sign a recent joint letter from governments urging China to investigate torture claims and raising concerns about human rights in China.
In the past few years, the Chinese government has intensified its campaign against peaceful critics, activists, and lawyers. For example, over 300 human rights lawyers and activists were detained in a wave of arrests in July 2015 aimed at intimidating their movement into silence. While most have since been released, six have been sentenced to prison terms of up to seven years, while eight others are still facing trial. In March, Chinese courts sentenced three activists to sentences ranging from three to four-and-a-half years for supporting democracy in Hong Kong and commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. Chinese authorities have also taken to kidnapping, forcibly disappearing and arbitrarily detaining citizens of other countries. Among those wrongfully held have been Taiwanese activist Lee Ming Cheh, Swedish bookseller Gui Minhai and American publisher James Wang.
As you will discuss cooperation on climate change, security issues, and business, it is worth remembering that these and virtually all issues in the EU-China relationship depend to some extent on upholding the free flow of information, freedom of expression, the rule of law, and an independent judicial system. A free internet and a free media are prerequisites for citizens and governments of both China and the EU to be informed about critical issues, such as environmental degradation and regional security. The rule of law provides EU businesses in China with security, stability and accountability, especially when disputes with local governments or state-backed companies arise.
In other words, progress on any aspect of the EU and China’s security and economic relationship requires progress on human rights.
We therefore ask that you:
We believe such steps are necessary to foster a meaningful bilateral relationship with China that respects fundamental human values and stays true to the EU’s core principles. We urge that you seize this opportunity to work for lasting change in China.
Thank you for your consideration of these important matters. We wish you a productive visit and please do not hesitate to contact us for further information.
Lotte Leicht Sophie Richardson
EU Director China Director
Human Rights Watch Human Rights Watch